Global Warming--The Current Status of the Debate, Post IPCC Report

Global Warming 17--The Current Status of the Debate

There is implicit good news in the mostly bad news in the latest big global warming report: From now on, politicians will find it harder to do little or nothing to fight this problem. The release of the report on February 2 by the IPCC, ranks as a landmark development. Using unusually blunt language for a scientific document, the report describes global warming as "unequivocal" and says it is "very likely" caused by humans. The results, according to the report, will likely include more frequent heat waves and stronger droughts and storms, while sea levels will continue to rise for more than a thousand years. The silver lining is that such plain-spoken warnings should make it difficult for anyone to argue that greenhouse gases should not be reduced. Capitol Hill already had been aflutter with prospective global warming bills; the report makes it more likely that one will land on Geoorge W. Bush's desk by year's end. Bush will face a choice: sign the bill despite the presumed opposition of the oil and coal interests he has championed, or veto it and leave fellow Republicans open to attack on what's shaping up as a top-tier issue in the 2008 elections.

As for the bad news in the report, it confirms that the battle to prevent global warming has been lost. Now the race to survive it has begun. Because we waited so long to act, the best humanity can do now is slow global warming down to where we can hope to endure it with relatively manageable damages. How bad things eventually get will depend on how much greenhouse emissions are cut, and how quickly. But the momentum of the climate system--the fact that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for decades, and oceans store heat for centuries--guarantees that global warming will get worse before it gets better (unless someone invents a miracle technology to strip existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.)

Even if humanity stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, the IPCC notes, global temperatures would still rise 1.1 degrees Farenheit by the year 2100. An immediate stop is impossible; it would mean shutting off every electric power plant, automobile, furnace and other device anywhere in the world that runs on oil, coal or natural gas, as well as halting tropical rainforest destruction. Thus ther IPCC calculates a range of possible future temperature increases that vary by how quickly emissions are or are not reduced. At the very least, says the report, temperatures will rise 2.0 degrees Farenheit by 2100, assuming a rapid shift away from fossil fuels. More likely is an increase of 3.2 to 7.2 degrees.

These numbers imply that there is very little time for humanity to avoid passing a climate threshold known as the two-degree target. Endorsed by the European Union and many top scientists as the maximum amount of warming above pre-industrial-era levels that humanity can tolerate before damages become unmanageable, the target can be confusing to Americans because it refers to two degrees Celsius. The equivalent in Farenheit is 3.6 degrees. At first glance, that sounds roomy enough. After all, the IPCC estimates that "likely" future temperature rise will range between 3.2 and 7.2 degrees Farenheit; thus if we decarbonize our economies fast enough to hit the low end of that range, the threshold could be avoided. The problem is, humanity's past greenhouse emissions have already caused the temperature to rise 1.1 degrees Farenheit over the last century. That means we will pass the threshold if we raise the temperature by only 2.5 degrees--barely more than the losest amount the IPCC considers feasible. And even in that case, we will still face considerable sea-level rise and more killer heat waves droughts and hurricanes.

There are no good answers to global warming, only degrees of bad. But speedy action might let us avoid the the most catastrophic scenarios. Scientists say we must cut emissions 80 percent by 2050, which is what the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, sponsored by Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer and others, mandates. Habitual foot-draggers, Exxon Mobil and the Bush administration look almost comical as they reposition themselves for the battle to come. Bush uttered the words "global climate change" in a State of the Union adress for the first time last month; Exxon Mobil announced it would stop funding some climate-change deniers. But neither the White House nor the oil giant accepts mandatory limits on greenhouse emissions. They simply recognize theat Congress is going to pass a bill this year, and they know that in Washington if you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu. Defenders of the status quo will want a bill that sounds good but does little except defuse pressure for real change. And that would by the worst outcome of all.

Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation, February 26, 2007

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12 comments

William Tarr Sr 7 years ago

I pray for my offspring down the line as well those of all others.I want to cry for our once beautiful, healthy home named Mother Earth, but it won't help. Dam!!! Unfortunately, there are so very many people who don't have a clue of what is going on around them further than an inch from their nose. And there many who love money more than their own children. I pray GOD will save us for the children's sake.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago Author

Very true. Thanks for your comment.


judge 6 years ago

the america will sink

because of sex........over tolerance

surely really...........


JUDGE 6 years ago

Dont worry....

after the DOOMSDAY the new era will begin!!!

NO MORE SINS ANYLONGER....

2011 in the middle of the year the WORLD WAR 3 WILL START

2012 NUCLEAR WAR END then "JUDGEMENT DAY"

:::After that you will ACQUAINT the SON OF MAN GOd

born from KOREA....seems unbelievable...

but time is so fast....just wait

then you will realize all what i mean

in that time we will learN his STRONGEST LOVE

and his SACRIFICE...........GOODLUCK

fOR your SALVATION..

GOD LOVE US SO MUCH


farah 6 years ago

I truly believe that all will come to an end look at the ways we take care of the world that God have created for us, doing things that is not pleasant to our savior, he has every right to destroy this world and come again to save all his believers and rebuild a better place for his children's.


Mona 6 years ago

Its time to take action we need to conserve the nature we still have time to save our planet. We should stop using of polythene n plastic as much as possible. I m really worried abt nature we dont know what happens next bledy chemicals n pollution is causing many probs. Floods,sunamis,hurricanes are taking place we need to seriously think abt what we are doing.


soumynona 6 years ago

All of you are so afraid of this so called "end of the world" that your clinging to anything you can grab on to that you think will "save us." Do you really think that the Mayans stopped making the calender because they "predicted" the world would end on such-and-such a date? Maybe they didn't have enough time to continue their calender or perhaps they didn't think at the time that humans would make it this far. I'm just being objective. Things happen for a reason; if we go in 2012 because of our, for lack of better words, crap that we create on this planet like nuclear power plants to make nukes, all the chemicals we use, pollution and fighting wars that we continually fight to try to create a good image of America and fix everyone's problems, then so be it.


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Ralph Deeds 6 years ago Author

I haven't noticed any scientific predictions that we will "go in 2012," but the majority of scientists seem to be convinced that it is prudent to begin taking steps now to prevent climate changes that may eventually make parts of the earth, now occupied by millions of people, uninhabitable.


Lloyd Maunes Sarez 5 years ago

BASED on the JAPANS EARTHQUAKE the earths continental plates are being AFFECTED it means that the roration has been affected . The earth spins rapidly.


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Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Interesting. I hadn't heard that. Thanks for your comment.


PPGGMM 5 years ago

All because of the fuel & chemicals which we found under the land, it purely the black blood of our earth. Because of our fast life, we are killing our earth fastly. And we will not keep anything good for our future generation..atleast we should stop using fuels and chemicals , spoiling the land,rivers, sea and air. Create more awarness and responsibility to the people to stop use all kind of products which are those produce more CO2..try to make this earth fully with green/trees...our earth will save us.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

I agree. Thanks for your comment.

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