Thursday, April 29, 2010

Global Warming: Truth or Myth?

By Tara Lafemina

Global warming is talked about by politicians, environmentalist and citizens. People are divided about the issue; some believe that global warming is the total truth, others are extremely skeptical about it. In order to decide if global warming is truth or myth, we have to look at both sides of the issue.

National Geographic has a clear point by point web page about the signs of global warming. They state that it is a concrete fact and can be proved. They have arguments that believers in global warming use to prove their point.

One statistic is the world temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. Yes, it does not seem like a large increase in over 100 years, but we need to be aware that most of this change has happened recently. Believers say the fact is proven since 11 of the last 12 years are some of the warmest since 1850.

Also, people living in the Continental United States may not feel the climate change but others do. Alaska, Russia and western Canada have seen temperatures double in the past few decades.

Ice is rapidly melting, states National Geographic. Artic ice is melting at a rate where it may be non-existent by 2040. Montana’s Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers in 1910, today they only have 27.
Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker stated in 2005, “People tend to focus on the here and now. The problem is that, once global warming is something that most people can feel in the course of their daily lives, it will be too late to prevent much larger, potentially catastrophic changes.”
Skeptics feel why do we have to be concerned about global warming before we even know it is a serious issue.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) has arguments that illustrates why skeptics do not understand global warming. CFACT says the public had no idea about the concept of global warming in 1988, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created. The public was not aware about global warming until 10 years after that. Skeptics want to know why the public did not know about global warming sooner if it is such a crisis.

Skeptics believe the facts are skewed about climate change, as many reports come from environmental campaigns. Greenpeace and the Environmental Defense Fund regularly publish reports, which may be the only bit of environmental news the public sees. Also, groups such as the Sierra Club are called on by governmental administrations to release and devise domestic plans.

Financial incentives for scientists to continue studying global warming is another argument skeptics have. In order for scientists to keep their jobs and research coming to universities and companies, scientists have to continually validate the realness of global warming, they argue.

CFACT gives a quote by Dr. Richard Lindzen of MIT to reinforce this point. He states, "We’ve created a system of scientific support which has an incentive structure not very different from the welfare system."

Regardless of ones viewpoints, we have to come together as a society and prepare for a disaster. If there is a possibility of global warming being true, we have to look at the consequences of what will happen.

The IPCC states that a huge food shortage could occur. This will severely harm wildlife and more than a million species could become extinct.

Glaciers will melt, resulting in ocean levels rising by as much as 23 inches. This would ultimately take away homes from millions of people that live in coastal regions. Areas such as Louisiana and Florida are especially in danger of this disaster.

Skeptics do not think outcomes will be like this. They want to know why snowstorms have been at an all time high, if the world is getting warmer. Skeptics feel they have ‘climategate’ on their side to prove how out of proportion the concept of global warming is.

Climategate happened in 2009 when emails between scientists in England and America were revealed. The emails contained information that scientists were not positive would be released to the public or not. The emails also had information about techniques used to manipulate climate change statistics.

The most famous email was about the hockey-stick graph. The graph shows the temperate increases from two sources, thermostat readings and tree-ring samples. Tree-ring samples no longer showed a climate increase since 1960. Thus, they were taken out of the hockey-stick graph, but still seemed like they were there. Skeptics claimed this was done to fool the public into believing the severity of global warming.

There are many facts that point to global warming being truthful. Skeptics do not go unheard though. They present arguments that put facts into question. As with any controversy, there is no easy answer. Global warming may not be taken seriously until it is too late. The other scenario is global warming may never truly affect us; perhaps some other environmental crisis will take center stage.

Tara Lafemina is an undergraduate student at Ramapo College. She is a communications major with a concentration in journalism and has written for "The Ramapo News." She is aspiring to one day write for an arts magazine.

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