Why are members of the conservative movement so adamant that global warming does not exist? When I have written about global warming in the past, amongst the negative replies there is a common theme, the costs we would incur pursuing an imaginary specter are wasteful. Such environmental causes are said to be political scare tactics to drum up support for the base during election years and the factual basis of events like global warming are proclaimed by these online experts as being non-existent. As there are a number of issues that we can safely say are conservatives’ bread and butter issues, similarly there are groups of people and their causes that result in a knee jerk reaction. Conservative claims that global warming warnings are counter-factual seems to me to be a result of not an analysis of fact, but a reaction to environmentalism. No doubt there are many conservatives that are interested in the preservation of the environment, but there is no doubt that the large part of American legislation that is decidedly not pro-environment has been a product of the Bush administration. Perhaps when I pigeon hole global warming as a conservative hot button topic, I should clarify it as a conservative, Bush administration supporter topic. It is telling that even magazines like Field and Stream, have published an increasing number of editorials critical of the Bush administration’s environmental policy. It is difficult to avoid cringing at the environmental record, especially when the President attempts to end the Clean Water Act and touts a net wetland loss of zero (a 523,000 acre loss of natural wetland is offset by golf course water hazards).
“Rod and gun in hand, and backing the Second Amendment right to own firearms, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have won the hearts of America’s sportsmen. Yet the two men have failed to protect outdoor sports on the nation’s public lands.”- October 2003
College Republican leaders such as Columbia University’s Chris Kulawik note that global warming is “a great debate for our generation”; a debate that once it finally begins may be too late. My sort of thinking is often dismissed as “alarmist”, but when one is confronted by fact it is hard to react like former Vice-President Gore and demand immediate change. Fact however is a funny thing; while fact exists, it can be interpreted to serve either side of the argument. Since the 19th century, the earth has experienced a 0.6º C increase (a little over 1º F). This amount may seem inconsequential, but as you can observe in the environment around you, there have been profound effects including an exponential decrease in glacial thickness, increased droughts in Africa, and increases in natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Critics are quick to point out that our current temperature increase is part of a natural cycle of heating and cooling. However the point that they fail to miss is that, although they are correct in saying that historically earth has experienced a cyclical hundred thousand year period of rising and falling temperature, that data was based on a static amount of CO2 that varied between 200 and 270 ppmv during the low and high temperature variation periods, respectively.
We are not living in a time when we can use prehistoric carbon dioxide levels to predict climate change for we are not living in the same conditions. Since the Industrial Revolution we have been steadily increasing our CO2 output to the point where we stand at ~ 370 ppmv which is a 137% increase. Do we have data that we can rely on that will predict climate change with such an increase in CO2? Unfortunately we do not.
Earth’s orbit is not circular but elliptical. The eccentricity of orbit causes a variation of the sunlight that reaches earth; this event known as Milankovitch Cycles has a period of about 100,000 years. This seems to match up very well with the earth’s heating and cooling cycles. As we will undoubtedly encounter another cold period, where presumably the glaciers will begin to reform, the burning questions exist in the immediacy of now. Glacial observations have shown us that every year our glaciers are melting and breaking off at a rate far greater than we had predicted; large chunks of Greenland have disappeared and Antarctica is showing similar behavior. It is indisputable that glacial melting will create an increase in the amount of water in our oceans as well as a change in the composition of it (fresh water vs. salt water). The effects of increased freshwater is hypothetical as of now, but the predicted effects are not for the best.
Human beings are quite obviously the cause of carbon dioxide increases and we are quite obviously experiencing increases in temperature. It is irrelevant that temperature change and climate are affected by Milankovitch Cycles, as the earth will operate on its own scale of time. Earth will eventually cool itself as its orbit pushes it farther from the sun, but that cooling period is hundreds if not thousands of years in the distance. However earth is currently heating up and our topography is being radically altered. If Hurricane Katrina showed us anything, it was that we need to be prepared for the worst. Without a global effort, one that includes the United States, advancements in technology and society will continue to drive the demand for fossil fuels; CO2 output will continue to increase, temperatures will continue to increase. While one degree Fahrenheit seems insignificant, one degree could dictate whether a glacier stays frozen or melts into the ocean.
Refusal to take action now jeopardizes the human race. There is no reason why we should not take preventative measures to ensure that global warming does not become the reality that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth foresees. In another ten thousand years the earth will return to normalcy, who will be the one accountable for allowing the human population to be engulfed by a statistical deviation in temperature?