The most common question asked when the topic of the environment comes up is: Do you believe in global warming? Before giving America the Prisoner’s answer to that question, it is infinitely useful to examine the facts.
Fact #1: Studies have shown conclusively that global temperatures have been rising. Ice is quite visibly and obviously melting around the polar ice caps.
Fact #2: Atmospheric measurements and other methods that allow scientists to determine concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere show conclusively that levels have been steadily increasing, with the rate of increase accelerating, since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
Fact #3: The Greenhouse Effect is a phenomenon where certain gases in the atmosphere act to trap heat. The greater the concentration of those gases, the greater the heating effect will be. Carbon dioxide is one of those gases.
Unfortunately, this is where the facts end. It is not unreasonable to draw the conclusion that the increasing carbon dioxide levels are the cause of the increasing average global temperatures and the melting ice at the poles. There are, however, other potential causes that are natural and unrelated to atmospheric gases such as slight variations in the orbital path of the planet around the sun. While there have been studies attempting to link greenhouse gases with global warming, the conclusions of such studies have fallen under suspicion.
The bottom line is that nobody knows for sure whether increased carbon dioxide concentrations are the cause of the global warming seen thus far. However, we do know with scientific certainty that at some point higher concentrations of greenhouse gases will warm the planet. Whether that point has already been surpassed or whether it lies well into the future has yet to be firmly established by science.Opinion: In all likelihood, the discharge of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the previous two centuries is the cause of the melting polar ice caps and increasing average global temperatures. The effect will probably accelerate in coming decades as emissions increase in developing countries like China and India. Oil dependence is a contributor, but the open combustion of coal for electricity generation is the primary culprit, a practice hardly isolated to the US.
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