Few topics can spark a partisan political argument as quickly as global warming and the attendant changes to the Earth’s climate that come from the massive amount of carbon dumped into the atmosphere by human activity. With political machines operating on both sides of the issue, it is easy for a casual consumer of news to become confused and; as a result, disaffected by the continuous bickering over the topic.
Yet the science is clear. The National Academy of Science’s 2011 report titled America’s Climate Choices states that an increase of the planet’s average temperature is not only occurring but also accelerating; and that human activity is the likely cause. The 2001 assessment by the International Panel on Climate Change, a body recognized by the national science academies of all industrialized nations, reached similar conclusions, stating “most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”
There are a number of critical issues associated with the global warming aspect of climate change. Among them are the rising of average global sea level, caused by both expansion of warming waters and melting Arctic sea ice, drought and aridification, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and acidification of the oceans, which can adversely affect marine life and industries. Also of concern are threats to food production and security; which can have an impact on the global food market.
Currently accepted computer models also cite the likelihood of global warming affecting the continued viability of several animal and plant species; as well as human and animal migration patterns and numerous aggregate effects on the global economy. Small ocean islands and coastal areas, such as New York City and most of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, would be moderately to severely impacted by rising sea levels; depending on which end of the projected range of change actually manifests in the environment.
Recent research published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change has also raised the point that regulating future temperature rises through reduction of carbon emissions may be much more difficult than previously thought. If true, this casts doubt over the ability of industry to undo the damage already done; and greatly increases the severity of the austerity measures that would be required to begin affecting future temperature increases through shifts in regulatory policy.
So if there is a consensus in the scientific community regarding the existence and causes of global warming, why is the issue so controversial in the media and political realms? The answer is simple – money. There is a substantial cost associated with addressing climate change and the industries responsible seek to mitigate the cost involved.
Critics of global warming, who are all too often sponsored by corporate interests vested in existing technology and economic models, dispute the effects; if not the presence of increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. However, even a casual internet search on global warming reveals a disproportionate number of “global warming deniers” publishing content in industry-approved publications such as Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.
It is difficult to present this issue in a fair and balanced fashion. The majority of serious climate change scientists come down on the side of the fence that posits global warming as real, affected by human action, and bringing significant changes to the ecosystem and global economic system of the planet.
Is the whole global warming controversy a bunch of hot air? You decide.
By Mark Clarke