Thursday, May 25, 2006

Global Climate Change

This post is for two people; my brother and my girlfriend. Both have been talking about global climate change recently, although taking very different sides. I encourage them to read this NY Times opinion column.

For a long time, I had been hesitant to really get behind environmentalists’ claims about global climate change. I never bothered to do enough research on the topic, especially because the science intimidated me. My position was that I would wait until there was enough evidence for consensus, and as far as I knew, the issue was still being debated. Apparently, ridiculous Michael Crichton books aside, there is no longer serious debate about whether or not there is global climate change and if human activities are causing it. Even skeptics, like the author of the column I linked to, are being converted:

Once global-warming science was too uncertain to form the basis of policy decisions — and this was hardly just the contention of oil executives. "There is no evidence yet" of dangerous climate change, a National Academy of Sciences report said in 1991. A 1992 survey of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society found that only 17 percent of members believed there was sufficient grounds to declare an artificial greenhouse effect in progress. In 1993 Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said there existed "a great range of uncertainty" regarding whether the world is warming. Clearly, the question called for more research.

That research is now in, and it shows a strong scientific consensus that an artificially warming world is a real phenomenon posing real danger:

[Edit]

In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences joined the science academies of Britain, China, Germany, Japan and other nations in a joint statement saying, "There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring."

This year Mr. Karl of the climatic data center said research now supports "a substantial human impact on global temperature increases."

And this month the Climate Change Science Program, the Bush administration's coordinating agency for global-warming research, declared it had found "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system."
It is becoming clear that there is now consensus about this issue and we can slowly make some changes. From the documentary about Al Gore and his speaking tour, to new books on the issue, it is becoming very hard for people like me to ignore the issue.