New Castle News

September 26, 2013

Our Opinion: Excuses dwindle on failing to act on greenhouse gases

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Humans are almost certainly to blame for global warming.

That’s the conclusion reached by scientists in various fields who gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, this week as part of a United Nations program on global warming.

Technically, the researchers said they are 95 percent certain that global warming is the result of human activity. So that leaves a little wiggle room for skeptics.

However, this 95 percent certainty is about the same as the strength of evidence linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. So people who scoff at global warming and human connections aren’t exactly on the most solid of scientific footing.

Actually, this message from the scientific community is nothing new, albeit a bit more definitive. For years now, the ties between human actions — particularly the burning of fossil fuels — and global warming have been well discussed.

And any rational arguments against signs of a warming planet are melting faster than polar ice caps. The evidence of planetary warming cannot be denied by any reasonable person.

But when this reality is tied to human actions, problems arise. Mainly, what can — or should — be done to reverse this trend? And while the scientific community solidly supports global warming data, predictions on future scenarios and the consequences of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are much more speculative.

That’s because it’s relatively easy to look at historical data and map changes in temperatures. Calculating those changes into the future, where multiple variables come into play, is a far dicier proposition.

Efforts to address global warming through a reduction in greenhouse gases poses an assortment of challenges. Critics of the concept decry changes in lifestyles or harmful economic impacts that could result.

There is also the fact that a single nation’s actions on global warming fail to address greenhouse gas production elsewhere. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are often attacked on the grounds developing nations such as China and India are contributing even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than this country.

Successful efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions inevitably will require international agreement. When one considers the battles in this country over something as relatively straightforward as health care coverage, reaching a worldwide accord on greenhouse gases sounds unlikely.

But it needs to be pursued. The remaining uncertainty over global warming — primarily its longer term impact — hardly justifies inaction. And common sense says that the longer the world waits to properly address this issue, the harsher the consequences will be.