Global warming has been a hot button issue for many years now. Bringing about public policy changes in an almost knee jerk reaction. But what is really happening to the world’s temperature?
Global warming is one of those issues where two very separate questions are folded into one by environmental activists for their own political agenda. The two questions are this; is global warming happening and, if it is, what is causing it.
A story in the October 2003 issue of Scientific American tells that after years of study the evidence for global warming, while not definitive, is indicative that it is happening. The evidence of warmer summers and milder winters and a melting Polar ice cap show one effect of the apparent warming, but what is also happening is an increase in Arctic and Antarctic snowfall. The apparent increase in temperature is both adding to and melting the Polar ice caps at the same. This is one reason why overly simplistic statements about the effect of global warming need to be seen for what they are, political, not scientific, statements.
For instance one reason why the question of global warming is not so easy a question to answer is that most temperature reporting stations are in or near urban areas, which are heat islands compared to the much larger rural areas. But even if global warming is true, the second question still needs to be answered, what is causing it? Here is where so much that appears in the popular media is both incomplete and deliberately misleading. Is the possible increase in temperature the result of human activity or the result of the normal temperature change that has been going on for centuries. What is known as the Little Ice Age was a 500 year long frigid period that ended around 1850. Before the Little Ice Age there was a period of about 500 years of warmer weather that resulted in an increase in Polar icecap melting as well as warmer summers and milder winters. The world today may simply be on the upside of a similar warming cycle of several hundred years’ duration. If this is the case, then humans are not the cause of the problem and we can have only a minor role in any possible solution. That of course is not the kind of thing that most of the groups involved in this issue want to hear.
While the question of global warming is important, it is also an example of how politics, poor reporting and environmental extremists can mislead the public and bring about public policy changes that are not be based upon all the facts.