Commentary - February, 2007

Global Warming

Global Warming & Climate Change:Man AND Nature, Long-term 

We live in a scientific world. Arguably, but only to those who believe religion and/or politics are more profound, science has become the most truthful, progressive and powerful force in our lives. Why, then, do most people seize upon half-truths as if they had the whole? Global warming is only one example, but it is the most important right now because of its long-term implications for future generations, starting with climate change.


Even those who should know better don’t get it right. Many say global warming is man-made. Others say it’s due to a natural, long-term cycle and use this claim to beat global warming believers over the head. The fact of the matter is that both sides are right. The evidence supporting the made-made feature is now beyond doubt; it has been accumulating for decades. Even the media caught onto this – 30 years ago!


And yes, Virginia, there is a natural cycle ongoing, too. The so-called “Little Ice Age,” which began about 150 years ago, ended about 50 years ago, just as we started to notice that all the crap spewed into the air through the Industrial Revolution over the past 200 years may be having some effect on temperatures and climates. Surprise, surprise! We are now in the midst of a natural, long-term warming cycle that has also been turning up temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age. The problem that the media ignore, and thus that most people are not aware of, is that these two cycles interact in ways that compound the trends and dangers of global warming. The dangers, therefore, are even greater than we are led to believe.


The question now is: What the hell [a good word when “warming” is the focus] are we going to do about it? Here’s where the very “long-term” nature of the problem runs up against the fact that most people, and the politicians they elect, are thinking mainly in the present tense or, at most, worrying about the future expense of their children’s college educations. Are we concerned about dangers to the lives of our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and future generations? Because we are facing here problems for which the minimum time-frame perspective is a century. Scientists have made it known that, because of the overload of CO2 already in the atmosphere and continuing discharges of carbon, methane and other gases implicated in warming, most of the most serious consequences of global warming will affect us no matter what we do now and for many years to come. Even major reductions in discharges will take many decades to affect global warming before we see reductions in warming.

So, the fundamental question that the global warming challenge puts to us is this: Are those now living willing to sacrifice, as past generations have sacrificed, so that future generations can have a better life? Are we even willing to insist, to those who want our votes, that they move beyond just playing “politics in the present tense” to a sense of the future and their long-term responsibilities?


So many questions; so few answers. Let’s warm up to the real problems we face, before it’s too late.


            Peter Bearse, Ph.D., 40 Andreski Drive, Fremont, NH 03044,

E-mail address: Feedback or questions are welcomed.


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