Global warming

This essay has a total of 2621 words and 11 pages.

global warming

It is ironic that fifty two years before hosting the 1997 United Nations Conference on
Climate Change, the city of Kyoto had barely missed being destroyed. It was one of four
cities considered as primary targets by President Harry Truman's secretary of war, Henry
L. Stimson. The others were Kokura, Hiroshima, and Niigata. Gale E. Christianson describes
Kyoto in her book Greenhouse as a magnificent city surpassed only by Tokyo in the number
of its institutions of higher learning. Kyoto served as the seat of the emperor for more
than 1000 years until the Imperial Household moved to Tokyo in 1868. All Japanese try to
visit the city at least once in their lives. The city remains the heart of Japanese
culture. Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dominate the landscape. Japanese theater was
founded in Kyoto. It was in this setting that the Nations of the world gathered to discuss
the issue of global warming in late November of 1997 (Christianson 254).

From the beginning the United States was viewed as the villain. Undersecretary of State,
Stuart Eizenstat, and head of the U.S. delegation, let it be known that no amount of
pressure could force the administration to flinch. "We want an agreement, but we are not
going to Kyoto at any cost" (qtd. in Christianson 255). Vice President Al Gore added: "We
are perfectly prepared to walk away from an agreement that we don't think will work" (qtd.
in Christianson 255). It was quite obvious that the United States did not want to be there
- and for good reason.

The reason had everything to do with cost and benefit. The Protocols would require that
the United States reduce its 2008 - 2012 overall greenhouse emissions by about a third of
the current levels. The economic costs are quite significant and the benefits are not. Tom
Wigley, a senior scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research,
calculated "saved" warming under the assumption that every nation met its obligation under
the Kyoto Protocol. According to his calculations, the earth's temperature in 2050 would
be 0.07 ˚C lower as a result (Wigley). According to Patrick J. Michaels, a professor
of environmental science at the University of Virginia, a warming of such an infinitesimal
amount cannot accurately be measure on a thermometer. "The benefits of Kyoto are so
miniscule as to be immeasurable. The costs, on the other hand, are not" (Michaels 12). The
effects of global warming, if any, are insignificant and do not provide concrete reasoning
for a radical U.S. response. Furthermore, even if the earth is warming, it is not cause
for alarm. Historic evidence supports the idea that warmer climates are beneficial for
human activities, food production, and health. Cold periods have had the opposite affect.

The argument against global warming is divided into two schools of thought. The first is
that scientific evidence proves that the earth is not warming and the issue has been
artificially manufactured. The second school of thought is that warming is occurring.
However, this warming is naturally occurring regardless of how we treat the environment
and this warming is beneficial to us for a variety of reasons which I will explain.

Scientific data collected over the over the last 140 years suggesting that there is global
warming has been replaced with satellites. Satellites, which measure temperatures all over
the world, show no real trend in any direction, in fact in recent decades, they show a
global cooling. Jerry Taylor, director of Cato Institute's Natural Resource Studies,
observed that NASA satellites and weather balloons show a slight cooling trend over the
past 19 years. Taylor points out that previous land based data "only unevenly covers the
three quarters of the earth's surface covered by oceans and virtually ignores polar
regions" (Taylor 2). University of Alabama climatologist John Christy, the originator of
the satellite data, points out that the satellite data matches up almost perfectly with
temperatures of the lower atmosphere taken with satellite balloons. If the satellite data
are in error, then the balloons launched around the world are somehow making the same
exact errors day after day (Christy).

On June 23, 1988 NASA scientist James Hansen testified before the House of Representatives
that there was a "strong cause and effect relationship between observed temperatures and
human emissions into the atmosphere" (qtd. in Michaels). He produced a model that
predicted global temperatures between 1988 and 1997 would rise by 0.41˚C (Hansen).
Ground temperatures recorded by the IPCC showed only a 0.11˚C rise or only one
quarter of what Hansen predicted. According to Michaels Temperature Variations Chart, the
only real change in temperature variability has been a trend toward stabilization and
reduced year to year variability (Michaels). This information was gathered through the use
of weather balloons and highly accurate NASA satellite information. The chart proves that
we are entering an era of stable and predictable weather patterns and not the opposite.

Recent weather patterns seemingly contradict Michaels chart predictions. The summer of
1997 was considerably warmer than average. 1998 followed with an even more unbearable heat
wave. Some scientists began to boast that the recent heat waves prove their theories that
global warming does actually exist. Patrick Michaels points out that this warming, shown
in the adjusted satellite data of 1998 is "an anomalous spike rather than a continuous
warming trend. That is clear testimony to its El Nino relation" (Michaels 9).

El Nino. The boy child. Named by Spanish speaking fishermen, it was once regarded as
little more than a rough current along the coasts of Peru and Ecuador around Christmas.
All that changed during the winter of 1982 when sea temperatures off the coast of Peru
rose by 4˚C overnight. Over the next several months El Nino was related to the deaths
of over 2000 people and $13 billion dollars in damage (Christianson 222). Patrick Michaels
and other scientists have tied irregular warming to this demon - El Nino.

However, El Nino has not shown this kind of wrath in the past. Why the sudden intensity of
the weather pattern formerly regarded as little more than some rough current that
disrupted the abundance of fish along the Peruvian coast for a month or two, every couple
of years? Kevin E. Trensberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research points out
that "this opens up the possibility that El Nino changes may be partly caused by observed
increases in greenhouse gases" (qtd. in Christianson 224). Green house gases have been
labeled as the number one cause of global warming.

Greenhouse gases occur naturally in the environment and also result from human activities.
The most abundant greenhouse gas is water vapor. Carbon dioxide is the next most abundant
gas. It is released in the atmosphere through many natural processes including volcanic
eruptions and human respiration. We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Carbon
dioxide is also released through many unnatural processes such as the burning of fossil
fuels, solid waste and operating motor vehicles. Encyclopedia Encarta states that the
concentration of carbon dioxide molecules in 1750 were about 281 ppm (parts per million).
Today our atmosphere contains 368 ppm, a 31 percent increase. Atmospheric carbon dioxide
concentrations increase at an annual rate of 1.5 ppm. At this rate carbon dioxide
concentrations will reach more than 540 ppm by the year 2100 (Encarta).

Yet, is there a correlation between rising greenhouse gas concentrations and temperatures
rising? According to this theory, the global temperature should have risen far more than
the 0.6˚C since 1861. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes
that some other industrial pollutant is preventing the warming from being observed.
Sulfates released into the air by aerosols have been blamed for the lack of warming
presently. Scientists claim that these sulfates act like mirrors, reflecting heat out of
this atmosphere. They are prolonging the inevitable rise in temperature. Activists and
government programs have been successful at reducing the levels of sulfates in the
atmosphere through awareness programs and labeled warnings on aerosol cans. The theory is
that eventually the sulfate screen will diminish and the true effects of greenhouse gas
emissions will be exposed.
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