"Arctic sea ice hits low" (1)
That headline, along with the record temperatures of the Summer of 2012, confirms the claim of Global Warming . But is the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) responsible?
1. Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels continue to rise. (2)
Studies of air bubbles in permafrost indicate that until about 1750 CO2 levels in the atmosphere were stable at about 280 molecules per million molecules of air. Today the comparable figure is 380 . In 2006 alone, about 29 billion tons of CO2 were emitted, about half of which was retained by the atmosphere.
2. Less heat is radiating into space.
Satellite data confirms that the amount of heat reflected into space is declining, so the earth is accumulating heat. Most of this heat has been warming the oceans, which is why arctic ice is melting. Moreover, both land and water absorb more of the sun's heat than does ice (since white reflects light), so that melting of glaciers increases global warming, which in turn will melt more ice. This resonance effect could lead to "runaway warming."
3. Air temperatures are rising.
NASA date confirms that the past decade is the warmest on record.
4. Effects of warming are mixed.
On one hand, the polar bear may become extinct in our lifetimes due to warming of the Arctic Ocean. Deserts and tropical rain forests will get even hotter, and thus even less suitable for human habitation. But warming will improve living and farming conditions in northern areas such as Canada, Russia and Wisconsin. If more people move from the Sunbelt to Wisconsin to escape the heat, property values in Milwaukee will rise as our winters become more tolerable.
5. Emission curbs will be ineffective.
Environmentalists urge reduction in carbon emissions to stop the warming effect. The trouble is that right now we don't have the alternate energy sources to replace burning of fossil fuels, and people will resist reducing their energy consumption. Although reducing air pollution is still a good idea because of health considerations, even drastic reductions in energy use will have (at most) only marginal effects on world temperatures. The economic growth of large countries like China and India will undermine any effort to curb emissions enough to prevent runaway warming.
6. We need a "Global Cooling Project"
If human activity has had the unintended effect of raising global temperatures, could human effort also cool the globe? For example, would it be possible to generate huge artificial clouds that would block a good deal of sunlight, and thus reduce temperatures at sea level? We need a concentrated worldwide effort to research and develop an effective global cooling strategy within the next few years. A large cash prize should be offered to the firm or government team that devises and verifies the best practical cooling strategy; the top climatologists, physicists and chemists in the world should be encouraged to join one of these teams. The team with the best proven strategy should be awarded a multi-year contract to implement the plan on a global scale.
Although some countries would benefit from global warming, at least in the short run, I believe that most (if not all) industrialized nations would agree that runaway warming would be disastrous for the world as a whole, and would join a worldwide effort to develop and deploy a cooling strategy. Only the United Nations or a similar multli-national agency, could muster the funds and power to create and control a technology powerful enough to reverse the warming trend. (This effort would require yielding some national sovereignty to an international body and also higher taxes, so the Republicans will probably filibuster against American participation.)
Humanity is apparently the only species in the history of the universe to have any measurable effect on the climate of its home planet. There is no limit on human innovation, so there is no reason that we cannot meet this challenge.
Gerald S Glazer
(1) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , August 29, 2012, page 6A (from NY Times)
(2) Website "Skepticalscience.com"