Global Warming – Fact or Fiction?

President Obama, in his second Inaugural Address, significantly elevated the priority of climate change. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” he stated. The President said he’d strive to rally the public behind the necessary changes. Record heat, devastating droughts and severe hurricanes and tornadoes haven’t yet persuaded our elected leaders to take action on global warming. It will not, therefore, be easy to build a consensus strong enough to force legislators to confront industry titans who fund their political campaigns.

A new book by John J. Berger, Ph.D. couldn’t be more timely. Berger, the author of numerous books, is an internationally-respected energy and natural resource expert trained in ecology. His latest book, Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science, persuasively dissects eleven arguments often used by those who deride the seriousness of climate change. Prateek Gupta_Global WarmingMany polluters in the fossil fuel and allied industries are spending large sums of money to obscure the facts about global warming in much the same way the tobacco industry did. It is up to the other 74% of Americans (according to an August 2012 Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll), to exert their will with their legislators so that the President’s proposals can become law.

Let’s briefly scrutinize a few of the popular myths that Berger lays bare. First myth: global warming alarmists are greatly exaggerating the impact of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a multinational research alliance operating under the auspices of the U.N. and World Meteorological Organization, has projected a variety of scenarios that estimate the average global temperature by the end of the 21st century. Contrary to what the deniers proclaim, the world appears to be tracking the high emissions projections (the most dangerous). Those forecasts, if realized, would greatly affect plant and insect life, raise sea levels and dramatically alter weather patterns. Many ecosystems would not be able to adjust; higher latitudes and the interior of continents would warm even more than the global average.

Second myth: climate change takes place slowly so we can afford to wait and see what happens. In fact, reports Berger, the climate can’t tolerate the stabilization of carbon emissions at even current levels without producing devastating floods, tornadoes and droughts. Greenhouse gases will continue rising for hundreds of years since they already saturate the atmosphere faster than natural processes can remove them. We cannot assume that advancing technology will make it any easier – our children’s choices will be constrained by a larger population and greater energy demand. They will also face depleted resources and ecological damage from decades of greenhouse gas emissions. Building fossil fuel powered generating plants today commits the world to polluting technologies for decades to come.

Third myth: fighting climate change would raise energy prices and taxes, lower household income, reduce investment and cost the economy jobs. Studies done by disinterested parties have actually come to the opposite conclusion. For example, the non-profit Tellus Institute concluded that reducing carbon emissions would unleash innovation and lead to the creation of 800,000 new jobs, the average household would realize energy savings of $530 per year and wages and salaries would rise by $14 billion. What is incontrovertible is that fossil fuel producers would have to retrench – guess who has funded those doomsday predictions. Because it is hard to quantify, most studies, both for and against climate change action, ignore the significant social, economic and environmental benefits of reducing emissions.

We must listen to the majority rather than the monied before we go over the environmental precipice. Berger’s book provides plenty of ammo – it’s time to use it!


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