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Global Warming Facts

This global climate change article debunks the global warming myth with global warming facts.

Eco-Logical cartoon graphic of cube-shaped globe

MYTH MANNERS THINKS
ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE WOULD BE RUDE
Global Warming Myths and Facts — Challenging the Global Warming Skeptics

Normally, news programs are abuzz with stories about murders, house fires, political sniping, and non-life-impacting sagas like runaway brides, doped-up sports stars, and lotto winners who squandered their fortune on sports cars and more lotto tickets. Rarely does a tame subject like global warming—which is just a little geophysical phenomenon that has the potential to disrupt civilization as we know it in the next century—rate any mention at all. And when it does get air time, our media nitwits usually resort to reporting on the latest squabbling over the subject without bothering to sort out the science from the spin.

Today's Eco-Logical will tackle the climate change spin issue by debunking some common global warming myths with facts.

GLOBAL WARMING MYTH #1

Man-caused greenhouse gases are insignificant relative to naturally released greenhouse gases; thus, we humans are not the problem.

GLOBAL WARMING FACTS

Indeed, there are natural sources of greenhouse gases. At times during the earth's history, natural emissions of greenhouse gases have been critical factors in major biological calamities on the planet. For instance, during the "Permian extinction" 250 million years ago, volcanic greenhouse gases played a primary role in the catastrophic climate change that caused about 80% of the life on earth to die off. At other times, naturally released greenhouse gases have also played a role.

In its normal steady state, the earth's natural processes emit roughly the same amount of greenhouse gases as its ecosystems absorb. Since the Industrial Revolution started, though, human activities have put twice as much CO2 into the atmosphere as can be sequestered by the plants of the forests, grasslands, and oceans. The result: the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere has not been this high in 420,000 years.

graph shows that C O 2 concentrations started rising in the early 1800s and between then and now have risen very sharply from a consistent historical baseline

The leading greenhouse gas, CO2, has risen substantially over the last two centuries.
SOURCE: International Panel on Climate Change

The world's climate scientists are overwhelmingly in agreement that the current rise in the atmospheric greenhouse gas level is due to man's activities on the planet. You may be the type of person that refuses to trust any data coming from international bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If so, then believe the US National Academy of Science—the most prestigious scientific body in the United States—which concurs that human activities are the predominant factor in the current increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases and the resulting warming trend.

GLOBAL WARMING MYTH #2

The increase in global temperature over the last 100 years was only about 1 degree F, and if the temperature goes up a similar amount in the next 100 years, it's no big deal.

GLOBAL WARMING FACTS

It is true that the measured increase in global average temperature over the last century was about 1 degree F. But only if manmade greenhouse gas emissions completely stopped immediately would the temperature increase over the next century be limited to 1 degree F. Scientists estimate that the average global temperature increase for the 21st century will be anywhere from 2.5 to 10.4 degrees F, based on the current trends in greenhouse gas output. But even a rise of 2.5 to 10.4 degrees seems like it would be within tolerable limits, right? After all, outdoor temperatures swing much more than that from winter to summer.

A FEW HOT FACTS

The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990.

The decade of the 1990s was the hottest in the last millennium.

The planet is warming at a rate faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years. This accelerated rate is of great concern to scientists.

Sorry, but that big bubble of positive thinking goes "pop" as soon as we realize that the average temperature during the last Ice Age was only 5-9 degrees colder than today's temperatures. During this period, the northeast United States was covered by more than 3,000 feet of ice.

In the last 10,000 years, humans have prospered, partly due to a long-term period of climatic stability—the Earth's average temperature hasn't varied by more than 1.8F (1.0C). Temperature increases of 2.5-10.4 degrees are far beyond the norm and will put us into uncharted territory. The climate in 2100 could be as drastically different from our climate today as the Ice Age was.

GLOBAL WARMING MYTH #3

Some scientists say global warming is a problem; others say it isn't. The science is still being debated.

GLOBAL WARMING FACTS

We'll answer that one in a minute. But first, some context. If a politician wins an election by 90%, it's considered a blowout. If a baseball team wins a game 12-1, we say it wasn't even close.

The views of scientists on greenhouse gases, climate change, and the likely impacts are even more lopsided than the two examples above. The overwhelming consensus opinion is:

  • the earth is warming;
  • human activities are responsible;
  • left unchecked, the impact will be large, potentially catastrophic.
OOOH, THAT'S GOTTA HURT

Early in 2005, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told representatives from 114 governments at an international conference that he believes the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to survive.

His comments proved somewhat embarrassing to the Bush administration, which had pushed for the ouster of the previous chairman (climate-hawk Dr. Robert Watson) and installation of the less aggressive Dr. Pachauri, who was once described by former vice-president Al Gore as the "let's drag our feet" candidate.

For more on the story, see CommonDreams.org

Yet, somehow, climate change is portrayed in news reports as an area where scientists are still not sure. Folks—they are sure!

There is a very small but very vocal, well funded pack of global warming skeptics working strenuously to keep the public from clearly perceiving the issue. Many of these weenies are funded by the coal industry and Exxon-Mobil, both of whom stand to lose business if the use of coal and oil—the two primary sources of manmade carbon dioxide—is greatly curtailed. Ross Gelbspan, author of the book Boiling Point, comments that the lobbying efforts and dizzying scientific spin from the fossil fuel industry and their band of merry skeptics "have marginalized the findings of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries ... in what is the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history."

We must move past this idea that global warming science is still being debated. We must start implementing global warming solutions, and we must start now. By the time you'll be able to observe the global warming effects for yourself, it will be too late to avoid disaster. Remember, greenhouse gases stay up in the atmosphere for a long time, and combating the problem is a lot like trying to stop a huge cargo ship—even after you stop the engines, it takes a long time to get the ship to stop. If we don't take significant action within this decade, the deleterious effects of climate change may be unstoppable.

— THE FUTURE —
CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS
  • Food and water shortages
  • Sea level rise and coastal inundation
  • Increased coastal and inland storm damage
  • Increase in regional flooding and droughts
  • Large increase in species extinction
  • Movement of disease-vector insects into currently unaffected areas

GLOBAL WARMING SOLUTIONS

The two main culprits that put greenhouse gases up into the air are:

  • the burning of fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, diesel, natural gas);
  • the clearing of rainforests (which store tremendous amounts of carbon).  Related article: Rain Forest Facts

Our global warming solutions will also have to address the lesser (but still significant) sources:

  • Methane from agriculture and animal husbandry;
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) from nitrogen fertilizers and some industrial processes;
  • Black carbon aerosols from combustion of fossil fuels or biomass materials;
  • Industrial gases such as halocarbons.

We're not going to go into detailed solutions here, other than to say that we should be demanding that our leaders lead on the climate-change threat. (For more on what you personally can do about climate change, see our article on global warming solutions.)

We should also ask them to tell jokes more often—man, are they a bunch of stiffs!

Resources:

  • Get an eyeful of global-warming myths and facts at Undo-It.org
  • Get the straight scoop on climate change science at RealClimate.org
KYOTO, THE U.S. SENATE,
AND OTHER NON-SOULTIONS

Remember—the amount of reduction in greenhouse gases that will be required to truly preclude a climate-change disaster is VERY LARGE. Estimates start at a 50% reduction and go as high as an 80% reduction. This is the range that some countries are already committing to. Unfortunately, the Kyoto Protocol and proposals currently under discussion in the US Congress fall far, far short of the reductions needed.

Is there someone you think needs to see the facts about global warming? Send them this article.

Publish date: 21-JUN-2005

Books:

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  book cover for Boiling Point, by Ross Gelbspan, 8/1/2004

In "Boiling Point," journalist Ross Gelbspan argues that, unchecked, climate change will swamp every other issue facing us today. Institutional denial and delay has now grown into a crime against humanity. Gelbspan points the finger at not only the fossil fuel industry but also at media and environmental activists, who have unwittingly worsened the crisis.

 
  book cover for Climate Crash, by John D. Cox, 4/1/2005

Abrupt Climate Change And What It Means For Our Future

Scientists are finding that layers extracted from cores drilled into ice sheets, sediments collected from sea shores, and growth rings exposed in ancient corals and trees all say the same thing—that climate shifts can be more sudden and troublesome than we'd ever thought possible. Find out what the triggers are and how likely the climate is to crash.

 
  book cover for One With Nineveh, by Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich, 4/1/2004

Is our cherished Western civilization doomed to go the way of Mesopotamia and other civilizations that perished because of unexpected environmental shifts or their own arrogance, greed, and ignorance of perilous circumstances? Quite possibly. The authors cover the political, media, and social causes of the problem, and conclude that there is hope—see solutions within... (by Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich)

 

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"Climate change is for real. We have just a small window of opportunity and it is closing rather rapidly. There is not a moment to lose."

— Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


 

       
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