Global Warming, Chapter Five

August 13, 2007 at 5:43 am (Climatology, College Related, Global Warming, Politics)

Chapter Five:
Evidence of Global Warming

Despite the arguments by the skeptics, there are studies that show that global warming is happening and that it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The main supporting arguments come from studies of the weather and the thickness of Arctic sea ice. The average thickness of the ice sheets over the North Pole is dramatically thinner than thirty years ago. The cause of this is warmer sea water on which the ice sheets float.

Other factors provide evidence for the effects of global warming, such as animal populations. For example, in the essay Global Warming Poses a Serious Threat by Geoffrey Lean, birds told the story of how damaging climate change can be. Lean writes, “We learned that bird populations in the North Sea collapsed last year [2004], after the sand eels on which they feed left its warmer waters-and how the number of scientific papers recording changes in ecosystem due to global warming has escalated from 14 to more than a thousand in five years” (21). If global warming continues more and more species will be affected. When species become extinct because they can’t find food or shelter, whole ecosystems have the potential to collapse.

Weather has been greatly affected by global warming since the 1970’s. Terrible droughts in the tropics led to a heightened awareness to climate change. In the book Our Endangered Atmosphere, by Gary E. McCuen, essayist Stephen P. Leatherman predicts that if nothing is done to lower emissions, the earth’s surface temperature will rise by 1° C. This essay was written in 1987. Since then scientists have shown that Leatherman’s predictions were correct. The earth’s temperature has risen 1˚. Other predictions that were made in the late 1970’s–80’s have also come true, such as impacts on rainfall and the melting of glaciers.

The rise in the earth’s temperature has had a tremendous impact on the natural stores of freshwater on the earth: glaciers and arctic ice sheets. According to John Berger, author of Beating the Heat, Himalayan glaciers are the fastest receding glaciers so far. They feed the Indus and Ganges Rivers in northern India that provide water for millions of people. This has caused devastating floods and mass wasting events. Other glaciers that have been melting at a rapid pace are those found in Glacier National Park. Eighteen of sixty-five glaciers have completely melted since 1966. Ice covering areas of the Arctic Ocean decreased six percent between 1978 and 1995. Ice sheets are falling into the Antarctic Ocean, causing dangerous icebergs for the shipping industry. Populations of Adelie penguins on the Arctic Peninsula have been reduced by one third of their count from twenty-five years ago. The temperature of their habitat has increased up to 4° F since the 1940’s and even higher in some areas (Berger 35-36).

This evidence is not addressed in books written by skeptics of global warming. In fact, in the book Climate of Fear, Thomas Gale Moore writes, “Warmer periods bring benign rather than more violent weather” (23). Ice sheets falling into the ocean and animal populations dwindling is not very benign. Moore believes that warmer weather would be harmless to the environment, yet he never gives an explanation for the damage that is already being done around the globe.

Moore even goes so far as to say that a period of warming might be beneficial to the planet because of prior periods of warmth. He says, “around 6,000 years ago the earth sustained temperatures that were probably more than 4° Fahrenheit hotter than those of the 20th century, yet mankind flourished” (23). However, the world was a very different place. There were not as many humans and most of the larger civilizations were located in Mediterranean climates that are generally milder than other areas. The rapid rise in temperature has already done damage to places such as the Himalayas, parts of Africa, the North American continent, and the Arctic and Antarctic circles through flood, drought and disease. Mankind may have florished in warmer periods in the past, but there are now over six billion people on this planet that depend on weather for food production and economy.

There are other harmful effects as well. Delicate ecosystems are being greatly affected. Coral reefs are being bleached due to warmer ocean water. Whole ecosystems dependant on the health of the reefs are collapsing. Humans are affected as fish die or migrate due to the destruction of their habitat. Insect and pest populations are wreaking havoc due to global warming. Mosquitoes are thriving in the warmer climates and bringing malaria epidemics to regions of Africa.

These issues are not being addressed by the skeptics. Despite this evidence, they continue to deny global warming. Instead of trying to find an alternative explanation for erratic weather, they concentrate their efforts on trying to prove that the earth’s temperature is not on the rise. When it is finally proven that the earth’s temperature is on the rise, they ignore the facts still and insist that there is no relationship between pollution and this climate change. Even thought the majority of climatologists and earth scientists agree on global warming, the skeptics insist these experts are wrong or over-exaggerating for the sake of politics. When oil companies, electric companies and car manufacturers make up the majority of the opposition to policy change, it seems that it is the skeptics who have more stake in politics than those that are honestly trying to clean up the planet.

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