Global Climate Change
Think the recent frigid weather in the Midwest proves there is no global warming? Think again. The vast majority of climate scientists now agree that global warming is occurring and, since the Industrial Revolution, is mainly due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The most important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. Carbon dioxide is the largest component, with the atmospheric content having increased from the pre-industrial concentration of 280 ppm to the present 380 ppm. This increase is primarily attributed to burning of fossil fuels.
The average global temperature has increased 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit from 1880 to 2000, and has increased over the past three decades by 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. This occurs from the trapping of infrared (heat) energy by the atmospheric greenhouse gases. If the trend continues, we will have global warming of at least 5 degrees Fahrenheit by year 2100. By comparison, the last ice age was 9 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than today.
New scientific evidence is being released, subject to peer review, almost every few days. The only lack of consensus among the scientist is how much warming will occur and when, as well as the possible future effects.
In the absence of prompt action to reduce carbon emissions, double carbon dioxide forcing will be reached by year 2050. The probable results for this global warming will be: an increase in the frequency and length of heat waves which can be deadly, drier weather in arid and semi-arid regions, increased precipitation with flooding in moderate and humid regions, a rise in sea level due to ice melt and thermal expansion, an increase in mosquito-borne disease (malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, etc.), and species extinction. In the U.S., the Gulf Coast, the entire Florida peninsula and eastern seaboard will be threatened by flooding. Globally, India, Bangladesh, and island nations will be at risk.
We could be leaving our grandchildren an entirely different planet. Although this is a global problem, simple personal steps can be taken to avert the catastrophe. For example, if every household in the U.S. exchanged a single incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, we would prevent enough greenhouse gas emission equal to removing one million cars from the road.
As with other catastrophes, the rich will probably accommodate while the poor suffer the most. I believe we have a scientific, sociological, ethical and theological responsibility to attempt to avert this global catastrophe and act accordingly.