Global Warming

Global WarmingThis essay was written in February of 2008 by Ryan C. Stebbins.

Global warming is a topic very often discussed today, but it is also a topic about which most people are poorly informed. First of all, one needs to have a basic understanding of how global warming works. After solar radiation warms the Earth, global warming occurs when the thermal radiation reflected back into space is trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (“Environment” 174). This is a natural phenomenon that is essential to life on Earth. Most of the present concerns regarding global warming are about whether mankind is increasing global warming by increasing greenhouse gas emissions and whether or not this is dangerous. However, global warming is largely a natural phenomenon, and one that is nothing to worry about; in fact, it may be beneficial to us.

Knowledgeable individuals and experts admit that mankind as a whole still knows very little about the environment. In fact, we have no idea how much of the present warming trend may be natural, and how much may be man-made. Michael Crichton, Harvard medical doctor, scientist, and successful author, along with many other reputable scientists and specialists in the field of atmospheric study agree that mankind still knows very little about the environment. We really have no idea how much warming will take place throughout the next century. As Crichton says, the computer models vary by 400 percent, and this should be effective proof that nobody knows (Crichton 570). Scott Barbour, editor for Opposing Viewpoints, also supports this view. In fact, according to the George C. Marshall Institute, judging from levels of greenhouse gases, these mathematical models show that there should have been a global temperature increase of 0.4 degrees Celsius between 1978 and 1997. However, satellite data has confirmed that there was no warming during this period (Barbour, par. 9). S. Fred Singer, atmospheric physicist and head of the Science and Environmental Policy Project as well as former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service, believes that global temperatures rise and fall for various reasons, not all of which are fully understood by us (Singer, par. 5).

Evidence shows warming and cooling trends to be a completely natural and regular occurrence throughout the history of Earth’s existence. Crichton believes, as do many other scientists, that we are in the middle of a natural warming trend that started around 1850, as the world emerged from a cold, four-hundred-year “Little Ice Age” period (Crichton 569). John Carlisle, director of the Environmental Policy Task Force of the National Center for Public Policy Research, also supports this belief, and he notes that even the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that this may be true. Carlisle also points out that there have been periods during Earth’s history in which temperatures were warmer than the present average of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. He is one of many researchers that say the Earth has a continually changing climate. According to him, the Earth’s climate has operated on a somewhat predictable schedule over the last 700,000 years by having 100,000-year glaciation sequences. Each of these has 90,000 years of cooling, an ice age, and then a sudden period of warming, known as an interglacial, which lasts 10,000-12,000 years (Carlisle, pars. 4-15).

Many experts believe that governments and other organizations overdramatize the effects of global warming in order to make people upset. Scott Barbour notes that although the IPCC says that “’The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate,’” it does not say, “’The evidence clearly proves’” this to be true (Barbour, par. 1). Barbour points out that the IPCC has stated that scientific evidence does not prove human activity to be linked with global temperature change (Barbour, par. 2). S. Fred Singer writes that attempts to reduce greenhouse gases may in fact harm the economies of industrialized nations, and most likely would not have much effect on the world’s climate. And yet, Singer points out that organizations such as the United States government attempt to get the public upset regarding global warming by releasing and supporting false or misleading evidence. For instance, the IPCC modified its 1990 report to make it look like human activities were drastically affecting the climate. He cites many different scientists who oppose this release of undependable information, including the highly respected Dr. Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences. Singer also says that the government supports town meetings and other gatherings that attempt to get people riled up about the issue (Singer, pars. 5-42). Michael Crichton agrees with these views. In his novel State of Fear, for which Crichton researched well over 100 books and journals and used data taken from credible institutes such as the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), he discusses his beliefs that governments attempt to keep people in a “state of fear” in order to better keep them under control. In the novel’s conclusive “Author’s Message,” he writes, “We haven’t the foggiest notion how to preserve what we term ‘wilderness,” and we had better study it in the field and learn how to do so. I see no evidence that we are conducting research in a humble, rational, and systematic way” (Crichton 571-572). He goes on to say, “We need more people working in the field, in the actual environment, and fewer people behind computer screens. We need more scientists and fewer lawyers … I conclude that the ‘exploiters of the environment’ include environmental organizations, government organizations, and big business. All have equally dismal track records” (572-573).

As for global warming having negative effects on the wellbeing of mankind, numerous experts believe that the opposite would be true. Global warming could, in fact, be beneficial to us. Everyone has heard the story that global warming will cause mass flooding and other terrible calamities. However, many experts disagree. In fact, they believe that the opposite could be true. Global warming, they say, could have positive effects on the welfare of life on Earth. John Carlisle believes that we would have higher-yield harvests and longer growing seasons if the global temperature increased by the estimated amounts. There is evidence to support such a belief. Between 6500 and 3500 B.C., when the average temperature was 58 degrees to 62 degrees Fahrenheit, was the warmest the Earth has been during the Holocene, the name for our current warm interglacial period. Mankind prospered during this warm period; in fact, this is when the Agricultural Revolution in the Middle East took place. In 900-1100 A.D., known as the Medieval Warm Period, the temperature rose to an average of 60 to 61 degrees Fahrenheit, up to 2 degrees warmer than today. Again, this warm period brought prosperity and even allowed Norsemen to colonize Iceland and Greenland (Carlisle, pars. 4-15). Also, despite the fact that some have said that global warming would cause sea levels to rise, others, such as S. Fred Singer, believe that global warming would reduce sea-level rise, due to increased ocean evaporation and precipitation adding to the polar ice (Barbour, pars. 16-17). Singer also supports the view that global warming would bring agricultural benefits (Singer, par. 33). Michael Crichton thinks similarly. He writes, “I suspect the people of 2100 will be much richer than we are, consume more energy, have a smaller global population, and enjoy more wilderness than we have today. I don’t think we have to worry about them” (Crichton 570).

As you can see, there are many reliable scientists and researchers that hold the view that the current warming trend will not be as disastrous as many organizations would have the general public believe. The past is full of examples where the world was in a state of fear because they believed terrible things would happen if they did not try to stop an event from happening. The Y2K Bug comes to mind. Past societies were even worried about another ice age occurring. Now the world is worried about a period of excessive warming. We should remember that we may know so little about the environment at the moment that attempting to “help” it might only cause new problems. We need to study it; as Michael Crichton suggests, “We desperately need a nonpartisan, blinded funding mechanism to conduct research to determine appropriate policy” (Crichton 572). He also says, “I am certain there is too much certainty in the world” (573). One would have to agree with him.

Works Cited:

Barbour, Scott. “Global Warming Is Not a Serious Threat.” Opposing Viewpoints Digests: The Environment. Ed. Scott Barbour. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. VCCS System – used for scripted access. 6 Feb. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/ovrc/
infomark.do&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&
tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010101224&
source=gale&srcprod=OVRC&userGroupName=viva2_vccs
&version=1.0>.

Carlisle, John. “Natural Factors Cause Global Warming.” Opposing Viewpoints: Global Warming. Ed. James Haley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. VCCS System – used for scripted access. 7 Feb. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/ovrc/
infomark.do&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&
tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010222212&
source=gale&srcprod=OVRC&userGroupName=viva2_vccs
&version=1.0>.

Crichton, Michael. State of Fear. USA: HarperCollins, 2004.

“Environment: Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming.” The World
Almanac and Book of Facts
. 2004.

Singer, S. Fred. “Global Warming Is Not a Serious Environmental Threat.” Opposing Viewpoints: The Environment. Ed. William Dudley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. VCCS System – used for scripted access. 6 Feb. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/ovrc/
infomark.do&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&
tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010132216&
source=gale&srcprod=OVRC&userGroupName=viva2_vccs
&version=1.0>.

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