In the last two weeks, we covered the questions what carbon is and how it is created. This week, I will cover what people with actual science credentials think of carbon and its future effects.
Scientists most alarmed about global warming predict that the Earth is headed for disaster if the temperature keeps rising. Many are convinced it will continue to rise and immediate actions are warranted, contending that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide have been building up for several hundred years and most will remain in the atmosphere for a very long time.
According to the New York Times, polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk. You are probably thinking that the other 3 percent are pretty loud and you are probably right. But 97 percent should mean the consensus is settled among those trained to know.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of scientists from around the world, has studied the global climate since 1988. In March 2001, it concluded that most of the warming during the past 50 years has been caused by human activities. The group projected that by the year 2100, the Earth’s average surface temperature will have increased between 2.5 degrees and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit from 1990.
Some occurrences such as warming ocean waters, disappearing sea ice, melting permafrost, and extreme weather are already happening. The IPCC projects that in the next 100 years, more than 50 percent of the world’s glaciers will disappear and sea levels will rise between 3.5 to 34 inches. The result will be erosion of coastlines, destruction of wetlands, and severe flooding.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere started to increase a few hundred years ago during the Industrial Revolution, when people started burning fossil fuels like coal and oil for energy. A more populated Earth and the burning of even more carbon-intensive fossil fuels today is resulting in rising amounts of carbon dioxide.
In 2006, scientists at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York were studying that city’s vulnerability to hurricane effects. They calculated that with 1.5 feet of sea level rise, a Category 3 hurricane could submerge areas including Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, lower Manhattan, and eastern Staten Island. Hurricane Sandy brought home the reality of these calculations.
According to the International Energy Agency, China, the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, has made the largest contribution to the global rise, with emissions increasing by 9.3 percent. Many American politicians seem convinced that the world shouldn’t react if China refuses to, but at what cost to all of us?
Most scientists suggest that the best way to avoid or lessen many of the consequences of global warming is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Switching to alternative, clean-burning fuels, investing in alternative-energy technology and taking part in global efforts to educate people about sustainable practices may help prevent numerous disasters. We are smart enough to harness cleaner technologies. America could lead the world with these innovations.
A consensus should be possible among our policymakers. Instead they seemed armed with talking points for political purposes. I sure wish there were more listening points on this subject that affects all of us on Earth.
Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.