Over the last two decades, climate scientists have become more convinced than ever that global average temperatures have been rising at an unprecedented rate for at least a century. The evidence suggests that this increase is due largely to the activities of the human race--mainly fossil fuel burning, industrial greenhouse gas emissions and careless land use activities. It is also becoming clear that these changes will have severe and far reaching consequences for global communities and ecosystems as the coming century unfolds. Changes in climate involve the coupled ocean/atmosphere system. The responses of this system to natural and anthropogenic (human caused) forcings have a great deal of thermal "inertia", which means that the effects will generally occur long after the activities that caused them and will take an equally long time to subside once the forcings are mitigated.
Global warming is expected to bring many changes to the biosphere over the next century. Most will be deleterious. The Earth's ecosystems are delicate and complex beyond anything being accounted for by our activities. As global average temperatures increase, a wide range of impacts on the Earth's ecosystems (including the ones that support our species) will be inevitable and many impacts will likely be unexpected as well as damaging. Some of these impacts, such as the shrinking of tropical coral reefs and the recent, unprecedented thawing of many Arctic tundra regions, and even increases in diseases like dengue fever due to temperature related changes in the populations of airborne pests from are already being observed and are likely related at least in part to anthropogenic climate change. There will also be significant impacts on agriculture, water supplies, and timber supplies, polar ice cap melting and sea level rise. All are expected to have problematic impacts on human societies globally.
The ability to cope with such dramatic changes will disproportionately favor wealthy nations and leave many Third World nations with few options. There is also evidence to suggest that these changes may be happening at rates that are likely to be greater than many of the earth’s ecosystems can adapt to in the time frame involved. As more is being learned about these impacts concern is growing, and more research is needed to expand our knowledge of them and what can be done. Even so, what we do know is more than sufficient to justify immediate action.
In many respects, global warming is unlike any other environmental threat. Because it is global in nature, no one is exempt from its consequences. What each and every one of us does affects everyone else on a global scale. The costs of mitigating climate change impacts are also likely to be high, yet because the "time lag" between our forcing activities and climate response is large (on the order of decades), the impacts will be "out of sight, out of mind" today and easily explained away by those who do not want the responsibility of dealing with them. Our children will end up paying the price.
Global consequences that cannot be traced to any one nation or community, high mitigation costs, and the worst impacts happening decades in the future--this state of affairs is tailor made for denial and rationalization....
And many have wasted no time in doing so. Polluting industries and Far-Right special interests (who typically have values based heavily on free-market ideals and business profit) have mounted large-scale publicity campaigns to convince policy makers and the general public that global warming is either non-existent or nothing to worry about. These groups all rely on a small pool of scientists (many of whom are not even climate scientists) that have been hired as consultants to orchestrate these efforts. With the body of climate science knowledge growing stronger almost by the day these voices are shrinking in number and increasingly on the fringe, yet they continue to be extremely effective at convincing policy makers and large sectors of the general public that science does not support the existence of anthropogenic climate change. Their case is base almost exclusively on a handful of flawed arguments which are addressed in these pages. But with each passing day their arguments grow increasingly shrill and isolated to a shrinking group of sympathizers. The world is waking up to the need for action.
In the pages that follow I will present access to information intended to clarify the science, shed some light on the claims of skeptics and their tactics, and hopefully help each of us to become part of the solution.