Global warming is not a new idea. Most people are at least aware of the theory that certain gasses, i.e. carbon dioxide or methane, emitted from large factories are causing heat to get trapped in the ozone, which in turn is contributing to a constant rise in global temperature. But the scary thing is that while the average person can acknowledge the dangerous repercussions of such a situation, U.S. leaders are treating it as if it were something trivial.
How can a problem that threatens the entire planet be seen as trivial? One reason is that some view global warming as if it were a kind of urban legend.
President Bush’s advisers, for example, have argued that the concept of global warming is too uncertain to take as fact, but a recent study covered by London’s The Independent in February proves otherwise. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego has conclusive proof that global warming is indeed a problem, and that it is caused by gas emissions from factories around the world.
A member of the team conducting the study, Dr. Tim Barnett, explains, “Over the past 40 years there has been considerable warming of the planetary system and approximately 90 percent of that warming has gone directly into the oceans.”
Dr. Barnett’s team determined that each ocean has a different temperature at different depths, which gives them distinct “fingerprints.” The team then created different computer simulations to see if those “fingerprints” could be created by natural occurrences, such as solar changes or volcanic activity. Of all the computer simulations, the only one that produced data similar to the “fingerprints” they recorded was the global warming scenario.
“The debate is no longer: ‘Is there a global warming signal?'” said Dr. Barnett. “The debate now is what are we going to do about it?” Unfortunately, as much as Bush’s advisers would like to think that global warming is just a scary story to tell around a campfire, it is a very real problem that needs very real action.
Another reason why the United States is so reluctant to make a serious effort to prevent any further global warming is because of economic implications. When asked to sign the Kyoto Treaty, which would force countries with industry to cut down on emissions of gasses responsible for global warming, President Bush refused because the effects of the treaty on global warming would not be worth the damage to our economy.
Bush’s failure to sign the treaty is not the inherent problem, since it is only a small step in the overall process needed to prevent global warming from getting worse. The Kyoto Treaty would only reduce emissions by about 5 percent, while most scientists agree that upwards of 60 percent of emissions need to be reduced.
The problem is that putting our economic troubles ahead of reducing emissions again displays our government’s overall lack of concern for global warming. It is like jumping out of an airplane and refusing to buy a parachute because it is too expensive.
Right now the Himalayan glaciers are melting, which will eventually cause massive flooding in India, China and Nepal. And since the glaciers provide water for much of those areas, once the glaciers are expended and the flooding has subsided, those countries will actually suffer from a shortage of fresh water.
Sea levels have risen 10 to 20 centimeters in the last century, and they could rise by as much as 88 centimeters by 2100. That may not seem like a lot, but even a slight rise in sea level can drastically change the position of the shoreline, covering more and more land with ocean water.
The state of our economy is not going to be in great shape once the Midwest becomes oceanfront territory and we hardly have any trading options because other countries are destitute due to the effects of global warming.
Plus, with a rising population that is already at several billion people, the planet is going to get awfully cramped unless our economy – which will be overflowing with money since we neglected to do anything about global warming – is able to fund a method for humans to grow gills and a dorsal fin.
Bryan Payne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.