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Ask Andrew: Is climate change real or is it your opinion?

Data has shown for years that our climate is changing, but the cause of that change varies depending on what side of the political spectrum you fall on.

MOLINE, Ill. — Climate change shouldn't be a controversial topic, but like a lot of other subjects recently, it has been touched by politics. I racked my brain for several days wondering how I could keep politics out of the answer to this week's particular "Ask Andrew" question, but that would be nearly impossible given how politically charged climate change has recently become. 

Pew Research has a ton of data on climate change opinions from recent polling data. When you break the views and opinions about climate change down to just the two primary political parties in the United States, the data truly shows a divide. The vast majority of self-identified Democrats believe that climate change is caused by humans, while the majority of self-identified republicans believe climate change either doesn't exist or is caused by natural patterns. So, there's a starting point, at least we have SOME overlap of agreement that climate change exists, we just can't agree on who or what is causing it. 

Credit: WQAD

When you look at the scientific data that includes the actual observations that have been taken for centuries, there is no denying that the climate is indeed changing. As the graph below shows, we have been steadily warming the average global temperature since the mid-1950s. The most alarming thing about the graph below is not so much the actual temperature itself, but the rate at which it is changing. Notice the sharp, upward curvature of the data as you near the current century. 

In its recent report, a group of 1,300 independent scientists from all across the globe concluded there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities in the last 50 years have warmed our planet. 

Credit: WQAD

What about changes in solar/sun energy? It would make some sense that changes in the Sun's energy would drive some type of change to our climate since it's the main source of energy that drives our actual climate system. Studies have shown that the variability of the Sun's energy has played a role in past climate change situations. However, there is also mounting evidence that current climate change cannot be explained by changes from the Sun's energy alone. The graph below indicates the change in solar energy versus the change in global temperature. Notice since the late 1900s solar energy has been decreasing while the global temperature continues to increase. 

Credit: NASA

STUTZKE'S TAKE: YES, climate change is REAL, but the solution is a complicated one and will take all sides of the issue coming together using innovation and technology.

There's a lot of rhetoric floating around the television and the web these days from both political parties. "They can't even predict the weather tomorrow." "The world is going to end in 12 years." "Climate change is a hoax." "We must end fossil fuels now."  In fact, I can almost guarantee that you'll find some of these same quotes in the comments section just beneath this article. The truth is, there is no perfect solution to this problem. Some solutions would have profoundly negative impacts on the United States and global economies, while others wouldn't act quick enough to make a difference. 

What do we need to do?

We need to put the political rhetoric aside and come together to find an appropriate solution. The more we weaponize and exploit climate change for political gain, the more damage we do to ourselves and the more we delay in finding an equitable solution to the problem. That's my take. 

If you have a question you would like me to answer for an upcoming "Ask Andrew" segment, submit it here! 

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