A lot of Americans who were on the fence about climate change are now leaning strongly towards the notion that the whole thing is the result of data cooked up by scientists more interested in the next grant than in objective scientific proofs.

The release of e-mails from East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit that seemed to support this point of view was not helpful. Nor was the admission of a lead scientist that a major conclusion about melting glaciers was based on less than stellar sources. Add to that the spectacular ineptness of the Copenhagen meeting and well . . . it’s ugly.

And yet through it all there are those of us who remain firmly convinced that climate change is a very real problem that is already adversely affecting the lives of millions of people. In this view of things, man-made carbon emissions added to the atmosphere in massive amounts over the last 200 years or so have caused the average global temperature to rise, leading in turn to uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable climate change.

Emphasis on the word average. That means that some places have seen higher temperatures while others have seen lower temperatures and the rest are unchanged but taken on average the temperature has risen.

The same type of thinking applies to climate change. Global warming causes the climate to change but that change is not the same in every place. It could be hotter, cooler, wetter, drier or pretty much the same. It all depends on where you live.

And none of this negates the fact that weather – what we experience day-to-day, month-to-month, season-to-season – is still very unpredictable. If you can look back over 50 years of weather like I can then you are perhaps more easily able to conclude that the climate – which is weather over the long haul – has definitely changed.

This much I pretty well figured out early on. What took me time to understand is that climate change is just one way in which human activity is affecting life on the planet. The enormous growth in our population has had some serious side effects other than on climate.

We are occupying larger and larger swathes of habitat. We are destroying larger and large swathes of habitat in order to sustain ourselves. We are consuming resources faster than they can be replenished. All of these activities were putting a huge amount of pressure on the plant and animal species we share the earth with.

The message is pretty clear here. If the entire planet could put this to a vote, there isn’t much doubt as to who would get kicked off the island. Trouble is, there is no place to go, so we either need to live more within our ecological means or Mother Nature may do it for us . . . the hard way. It’s our choice.

This essay first appeared in PlanetRestart.org.