"The Arctic will retain its power to amaze for a long time. Yet it is now changing beyond the usual regional and annual variations in sea-ice formation, glacier melt and so forth. The Arctic is clearly melting. Its floating ice cap is shrinking and thinning and its glaciers are retreating. By the end of this century, maybe much sooner, there will be frequent Arctic summers with almost no sea...
Climate Change 101
What do polar bears, windmills, dramatic weather, and fossil fuels all have in common? Due to the extensive media coverage devoted to these and other environmental issues in recent years, it’s not hard to guess that the answer to this question is global warming. Indeed, global warming is the front and center topic of many policy discussions around the world.
In brief, the argument for global warming suggests that the increased industrialization of the last century has caused pollutants such as carbon dioxide to be released into the air. These pollutants in turn have strengthened the shield around our atmosphere and trapped more warm air inside earth’s “greenhouse,” causing temperatures to rise. According to proponents such as Al Gore, the effects of man-made global warming are disastrous and could produce everything from catastrophic weather, melting of the poles, and rising sea levels.
Modern concern over the well-being of the earth and its atmosphere first began to escalate during the earth conservation efforts of the 1960s. During this time, President Johnson implied that the result of an industrialized society was a carbon dioxide polluted atmosphere. Successive presidential administrations and other global leaders began to view greenhouse gas emissions as a danger to society, and as a result, urged the production of a variety of legislation and global agreements to reduce harmful anthropogenic effects on the atmosphere.
In the United States, these global warming legislative efforts included the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a bill which sought to regulate how much carbon dioxide individual businesses can release into the air. Although this large scale global warming regulatory effort was unsuccessful in the United States, efforts in other countries such as Great Britain have passed and become law. On a global scale, agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol have attempted to involve countries in slowing global warming by restricting the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.
While alarmism and government regulatory efforts have dominated the global warming debate during the past several decades, there is a growing movement to view global warming, or climate change, simply as a part of the earth’s natural and varying climate cycles. Many who hold this view declare that climate change is greatly influenced by changes in the sun, rather than man-made pollutants such as CO2.
Those who view climate change as a natural occurrence point out that historical records show several warming and cooling periods much more extreme than those we are experiencing now. Indeed, eras such as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) actually seem to demonstrate times of prosperity rather than disaster, as evidenced by the impressive architecture and expanded agriculture which occurred during the same time as the MWP. Considering that these earlier eras were virtually free of the industrialized pollution that man-made global warming proponents believe is at the root of current warming trends, some scientists have begun to reconsider the consensus position on global warming and CO2 reduction as put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.
In the last several years, many more scientists have begun to challenge the conventional global warming view, especially with the revelation of the Climategate emails. These emails suggested that the issue of global warming was politicized, and that its proponents were guilty of “cooking the books” and squelching the scientific research of those who disagreed with the consensus viewpoint. As more examples of flawed and deceptive climate science emerged, the public has gradually begun to reassess their opinions on global warming.
In late 2009, President Obama declared that climate change was “not fiction,” but “science.” Due to this belief, the President encouraged Americans to cut their carbon usage and sought to implement greater renewable energy technology. Indeed, some of President Obama’s highly contentious stimulus package included money for the development of green jobs such as those at a solar panel company named Solyndra.
In order to help readers discern reality and hype in the climate change debate, this library topic presents historical data and scientific reports which weigh the evidence both for and against the issue of man-made global warming. Additionally, this topic presents a variety of interesting commentary from all sides of the climate change debate.
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- Video: Catastrophe Denied: The Science of the Skeptics Position
- What the Earth Knows
- Video: Inside Story - Is climate change a global security threat?
- Economic Impacts of Climate Change
- Current Extreme Weather and Climate Change
- Seven Theories of Climate Change
- Friends of Science
- The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change
- Quotes on Climate Change 101
- Environmental Protection Agency's Global Warming Website