Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat We're Facing—Period. | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Heather Goldstone during a Newsweek podcast debate on climate change. You can listen to the podcast here:

There is extensive science that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are completely unprecedented. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have not been this high in over 800,000 years. Modern humans have been around for a little bit less than half that. If you look at the last 10,000 years, at the evolution of agriculture, at the entire development of civilization, that has all taken place in a time of remarkable climate stability. It's that stability that has made it possible for civilization and the societies we know to develop.

The fact that we are now so far outside the bounds of anything that we've seen in the course of human evolution is an emergency. It's a cause for huge concern.

Carbon dioxide has always been in the atmosphere and it's an incredibly important part of our planet that we have had this warming layer. What's really critical here is to realize is that you can cherry-pick specific statistics to support an argument, but there is no scientific debate about the fact that the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is causing dangerous climate change.

So you have to really stop and ask a deep question: What would drive some people to deny an overwhelming body of science that tells us we are headed in a really dangerous direction?

We have a body of science that has begun answering that question. There are a few answers, but in general, what seems to motivate this denial is that when information conflicts with a deeply held worldview, deeply held values or beliefs, we will often reject that information.

This photograph shows a forest burning as a massive wildfire engulfed a Mediterranean resort at the Marmaris district of Mugla, on August 1 2021. YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images

When we talk to climate scientists there is no question that human beings are causing dangerous climate change. This conclusion has been come to over and over in large consensus reports in individual studies. Does that mean we know every single thing about climate change? Absolutely not, and nobody's claiming that. But we certainly know enough to know that we are in the midst of an emergency and that we need to act urgently and dramatically to respond to it.

It's really a false dichotomy that has been around for a long time, that we have to choose between a healthy environment and a healthy economy, when in actual fact, what the science tells us is that a healthy environment is the underpinning of a healthy economy.

At Woodwell Climate Research Center, we've been working with McKinsey and Company, and what our work is showing is that climate change is material, it poses material risks to economic prosperity. Investments in green energy in renewable energy, in the kinds of changes that we need to make to meet the challenge of climate change, they actually earn back more than you invest in them.

In the past month, we have seen more than 500 deaths due to climate change- fueled extreme weather events. They are more extreme and made more extreme and more deadly by climate change.

Heather Goldstone is the chief communications officer of the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

The views in this article are the writer's own.