By Paul Gorski
I am writing this article with the global climate change naysayer in mind.
Some people seemed confused about climate change, global warming, the facts surrounding these topics, and the scientific theories used to explain these phenomena.
I have read some odd articles and/or comments in local and national news sources discussing climate change, so I thought I would clarify some of the key points.
First, there are climate facts, usually documented direct measurements or calculated measurements of temperature, sea level, water acidity and more. Then, there are the theories that scientists develop from these facts.
Some relevant climate facts include: oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking, glaciers are retreating, sea levels are rising, and the ocean is becoming more acidic.
In addition, the number of extreme warm-weather events is at an all-time high since 1950, and the average global surface temperature has risen at a high rate since the 1970s.
Ice core analyses and recent direct measurements suggest that the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) level is higher now than at any time in the past 650,000 years. See http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ for the references to support these measurements.
Scientists have developed two theories from these facts: 1) humans have caused the increased atmospheric CO2; and 2) global climate change is occurring as a result of this additional atmospheric CO2.
You may choose to challenge the theories that humans are the cause of the CO2 increase and/or that the increased CO2 is causing climate change, but please challenge these theories with facts.
However, global warming is not a theory, it is one subset of climate change facts — global warming describes the set of measurements that document the increase in global surface temperatures.
I make the distinction between fact and theory so we can focus on the public policy decisions we still need to make about the facts. Sea levels are rising; what does this mean to coastal communities? Average temperatures are rising, causing shifts in national corn, grain and soybean farming regions: how do we adjust?
You might not care that polar bears face extinction, but we need to deal with our own water, food and natural resource concerns. Governments and communities need to deal with reality.
We can react to rising temperatures and rising sea levels by moving farms and communities, but we might be playing that game for a very long time. Or, we can address the root causes of these problems. You may not agree that humans are the cause of these problems or that reducing car and power plant emissions are part of the solution. That is OK. I am all for hearing any viable solutions to these problems. Right now, I believe global climate change is real and that we can do something about it, largely by adjusting how we use and generate energy in this country.
Learn more about alternative and green energy options by reading the renewable energy column in this newspaper: http://rockrivertimes.com/category/living/renewable-energy/.
Paul Gorski (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Cherry Valley Township resident.
From the June 18-24, 2014, issue