How Should We Respond to Global Warming?
A few days ago, while basking in the warmth of winter, a friend asked me about Global Warming and what exactly the problems were with a rise in temperature. He seemed to have no problem with a 75 degree day in the middle of March and wanted to know what all the fuss is about. I tried to answer his question by concisely summing up the evidence for global warming and the potential hazards of an increase in global temperature–surprisingly, I could not think of a decent response.
You see, I didn’t quite know how to respond to my friend’s forthright inquiry about the state of the Earth’s weather systems, because I really don’t have a clue what is happening or is going to happen. By studying the concepts of global climate, I have been introduced to a conundrum of interacting variables that appear impossible to decipher. So, after stammering out a few potential threats: sea-level change, drought, floods, loss of biomass, and heatstroke, I plunged back into science books and journals vowing to prepare myself for the next time someone posed a similar question (I am still looking for Klutz’s The Idiots Guide to: Global Warming--let me know if you have a copy). Unfortunately, further research revealed more questions and variables to puzzle over and a much more confounding dilemma than I had anticipated.
Initially, I hoped to find specific information which answered the questions of global climate variations and mankind’s influence upon climate systems. Yet, in digesting several different views, variables, data, satellite data, and proxy data, I only found that my discombobulation had lots of company. It seems nobody definitively knows, or can agree on, where long-run climate change is heading or what the effects will be on different ecosystems, or even whether increased CO2 levels are responsible. Currently, the interrelation of feedbacks from all the possible variables adds too many chaotic complexities to provide a definitive answer, and models used to project climate are subject to a number of criticisms. Naturally, anthropogenic influence on climate change figures to be at the crux of the debate, and the dividing lines of opposing interest groups are sharply drawn. Policymakers are in a difficult situation. They have to weigh regulations that have a potentially harmful effect economically (Kyoto Protocol), against the possibility–given scientific error–of disastrous climate change. As a result, scientists confront the daunting task of separating the human effects on climate from the background noise caused by natural climate forcings.
The interaction of a seemingly infinite number of variables inflicts difficulties in distinguishing climate trends. Although we are well aware of rising temperatures and sea-level, pinpointing the causes of these fluctuations is arduous work. Factors such as El Nino, the orbital positions of the Earth, volcanic eruptions, topography, sunlight variations, respiration,...