There are topics worthy of discussion but with the winter storm that paralyzed much of the East Coast last week and several other winter events recently, it is worth revisiting the topic of climate change a.k.a. global warming. Revisiting since this topic was discussed last year in this column. What prompts this column is the spate of memes, posts, interviews, etc. regarding items such as “Here’s your three feet of global warming.” And interviews with politicians and commentary by radio and TV hosts regarding the global warming “hoax” and not “believing” in it.
First, a brief definition of global warming is in order from the Oxford Dictionaries. Global warming: a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants. The proponents cite the research, climate data, and analysis conducted as indicating that 1)The Earth’s atmosphere is warming abnormally due to the influence of human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels and 2)This warming is and will have severe consequences for humanity regarding weather events, sea level rise, and the ability to produce food. Apologies for the brevity of this definition but this isn’t a column to explain global warming. This phenomenon is accepted by the vast majority of the scientific community and countries of the world. The reverse is the group of individuals and some scientists who don’t “believe” in global warming or if climate change is happening it isn’t caused by man.
This column isn’t designed to change anyone’s mind. The only item to point out is that you don’t “believe” in a scientific theory or law. You accept or reject it. Science isn’t a belief system. This isn’t to nitpick or demean but science deals in hypotheses and seeking to accept or reject the hypothesis based on facts and evidence. There is no room for belief. You let the facts lead you where they will.
If you have the time to examine the writings on global warming, they predict essentially what has happened, not the specific event but the types of events, including the polar vortex last year and this year’s East Coast storm. This is a long-term phenomenon and it doesn’t mean the end of winter or cold snaps. And please remember it’s “global” warming, not U.S. warming or Kansas warming. The earth just completed either the warmest or second warmest year on record and almost all of the top ten have occurred in the last 20 years.
One final caveat. When scientists speak of the severe effects from temperature rise, the rise isn’t ten or fifteen degrees Fahrenheit or the end of winters. For glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, and major effects on season climate you only need a few degrees increase.