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Climate Change: The Facts
With the rise of civilization and mankind’s growing influence and control over the world around it, technology has improved and extended the lives of people across the globe. Accompanying the growth of technology is the growing understanding and debate over the impact technology has on a large scale. The question of global warming, which has become one of the most controversial and divisive issues of recent times, is a direct result of the growing impact of modern technology on the world as a whole. At the bottom of the argument is the question of whether or not the actions of humans in the past century can alter the cycles of the earth’s climate which have continued for millennia, and whether or not this change would be negative, and something that governments should specifically seek to stop. While both sides claim to have evidence proving that they are right, based on the scientific evidence currently available and the consensus of experts on the topic, it can be concluded that climate change is a real issue which needs to be dealt with by the governments of the world.
Global warming, the most popular term for the environmental issue being debated, is in fact only one aspect of climate change, the overarching issue of drastic changes in earth’s climate due to human actions (USEPA Website). Climate change includes all extreme weather caused in part by human activities, which has been seen all across the United States ("Extreme Weather and Climate"). A number of scientific studies are pointed to by advocates of the theory as evidence to the changes in the earth’s ancient cycles. These include extreme weather records, abnormally heavy precipitation in some regions, and the increasing concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gasses (USEPA Website). One of the most convincing pieces of evidence for the existence of climate change is the consensus of experts on the issue. Climate change is a large debate in the general public and on the political stage, but in a survey of American Meteorological Society members, 89% of scientists agreed that climate change is occurring, reflecting the fact that experts on climate recognize the impact of modern industry on the Earth’s weather patterns (Maibach).
Deniers of global warming attempt to refute the evidence of climate change with a number of studies and arguments meant to invalid those of climate change advocates. Among the most common of these claims is that global temperatures have not been increasing significantly over the past decade, and that the climate models showing temperature changes are inaccurate. Climate is a very complicated phenomenon, influenced by hundreds of individual variables, and not completely understood by scientists. Climate models, according to deniers, cannot be made accurately without a complete grasp of all the factors that influence the planet’s weather (Bell). To account for the greenhouse gasses which climate advocates suggest are the cause of global warming, opponents point out that plants consume carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas, for food, and have been shown to grow larger in high concentrations of CO2. Not only is climate change not occurring, believe deniers, but greenhouse emissions benefit the environment ("Global Warming & Climate").
While arguments against global warming may look appealing and rational, they have some important flaws. Although atmospheric temperatures do appear to be relatively stable, they do not account for most of the heat found on the planet. Oceans absorb more energy than the rest of the planet, and are not included in studies showing flat global temperatures. In regards to the belief that climate models are inaccurate, climate change proponents point out that, despite the incomplete understanding of the factors affecting climate, the models have accurately represented past data and trends. Scientists also have shown that while plants in controlled environments do demonstrate increased growth when exposed to CO2, in natural environments, the need for other resources such as water and sunlight prevent them from taking advantage of the additional carbon dioxide ("Global Warming & Climate").
The next question after determining the reality that is global warming is: should governments get involved in trying to stop it? The answer to this question can be determined by assessing the severity of global climate change, and whether or not enough individuals on a large enough scale will work to stop climate change without governments needing to become involved. According to the American Meteorological Society’s survey of climate experts, close to eighty percent of the scientists involved stated that global warming would be “harmful or very harmful to society if nothing is done to address it. During the same survey, only 2% believed that all negative effects of global warming could be stopped if immediate action was taken, while an overwhelming majority of climate and weather experts stated that it is currently too late to halt some of the damage that will be caused by global warming. This means that not only is global warming a problem that could pose serious harm to society; it is also an urgent problem which is already having permanent effects (Maibach). Finally, the general public cannot be expected to act on a large enough scale to counteract global warming without government intervention due to the divisiveness of the issue among most of the population. According to one study, only 58% of American’s believe in climate change, compared to 97% of climate experts, the large scale issue of climate change can only be solved if a vast majority of individuals are actively participating in fighting global warming (“Global Warming and Climate”).
Recent advances in technology have given mankind the power to drastically impact the planet on a large scale, requiring increasing responsibility on the part of civilization. In recent years, science and climate experts have demonstrated that human greenhouse gas emissions are having negative changes on global climate, which could lead to permanent damage to the environment and society. Due to the divisiveness and misconceptions of the general public, the responsibility to solve climate change falls on the governments of the world, who must take action immediately to prevent as much damage as possible, as soon as possible.
Bell, Larry. "Global Warming Alarm: Continued Cooling May Jeopardize Climate Science and Green Energy Funding!" Forbes Website. Forbes, n.d. Web. 2 May 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/04/30/global-warming-alarm-continued-cooling-may-jeopardize-climate-science-and-green-energy-funding/>.
Desonie, Dana. Biology. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 May 2013. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=RELEVANCE&inPS=true&prodId=GPS&userGroupName=melb49911&tabID=T001&searchId=R6&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&contentSegment=&searchType=BasicSearchForm¤tPosition=2&contentSet=GALE%7CCX3400700192&&docId=GALE|CX3400700192&docType=GALE&role=GVRL>.
"Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind." Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Website. Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/files/Extreme-Weather-Public-Opinion-April-2013.pdf>.
"Global Warming & Climate Change Myths." Skeptical Science. Ed. Jan Dash, Dr. and John Cook. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2013. <http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php>.
Lerner, Ed K. Lee, and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. "Global Warming." World of Earth Science. Vol. 1. N.p.: n.p., 2003. 259-60. Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 1 May 2013. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=RELEVANCE&inPS=true&prodId=GPS&userGroupName=melb49911&tabID=T001&searchId=R4&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&contentSegment=&searchType=BasicSearchForm¤tPosition=1&contentSet=GALE%7CCX3437800257&&docId=GALE|CX3437800257&docType=GALE&role=GVRL>.
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Maibach E, StenhouseN, Cobb S, Ban R, Bleistein A, et al.(2012) American Meteorological Society Member Survey on Global Warming:Preliminary Findings. Fairfax, VA: Center for Climate Change Communication.
USEPA Website. US Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 1 May 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange>.