Amidst the chaos of the Inauguration events and Obama administration’s transition, Rasmussen Reports conducted a global warming poll late last week. As I perused through the poll questions and responses I could barely believe what was reported: An increasing number of people do not think global warming is caused by human activity.
According to the poll, 44 percent of all people polled thought long-term planetary trends were the primary cause of global warming as opposed to the 41 percent of people who blamed human activity. In 2006, only 35 percent of people believed that global warming was caused by planetary trends. Overall, 41 percent of people polled stated global warming was a very serious problem, and 23 percent of people polled thought that it was a somewhat serious problem. Interesting though, according to Rasmussen Reports, 64 percent of Democrats think global warming is a serious problem while only 18 percent of Republicans believe the same.
Affiliations aside, this news is not only disheartening, but it is also downright disturbing.
A few weeks ago, I read an article detailing how legislators in Florida were wary to vote on a greenhouse gas reductions act since apparently some of Florida’s politicians were questioning the role of human activity in global warming. Perhaps the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should mail them a few hundred copies of their 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. I can understand that the average American doesn’t take the time to read the IPCC reports, but politicians? The IPCC specifically made a summary report just for policymakers.
Here’s the breakdown of the IPCC findings: Our atmosphere does go through “natural cycles” of temperature changes, but what people are failing to understand, or perhaps are choosing to ignore, is that the rate of warming that has occurred in the past 250 years has grossly accelerated. According to the IPCC, “The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years (180 to 300 ppm) as determined from ice cores.” Further, “The atmospheric concentration of methane in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range of the last 650,000 years (320 to 790 ppb) as determined from ice cores.” And finally, “The combined radiative forcing due to increases in carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide .. .and its rate of increase during the industrial era is very likely to have been unprecedented in more than 10,000 years.” The IPCC also clearly notes that these increases are the result of human activities, not “natural cycles.” The colorful IPCC graphs with sharp J-curves of greenhouse gas emissions show the trends quite clearly.
Several hundred of the world’s finest scientists came together to produce the IPCC report that undoubtedly demonstrates that global warming is happening and the result of human activity. Despite this, more Americans now believe global warming is caused by natural cycles than by people. How did this happen? Are they in denial? Have we lost our faith in science? Is the media inaccurately reporting the reality of the situation? We need to open our eyes and see things for what they are, especially as new evidence of global climate change continues to be announced nearly every week.
Wednesday, Nature published research which demonstrates that Antarctica is also warming. For many years scientists were unsure as to whether Antarctica was warming, especially in comparison to the North Pole, which has warmed more than 5°. But this new research shows that Antarctica is warming at about the same rate as the rest of the globe, which could have dramatic consequences for the massive ice shelves in the area. It is just one of the many reports already out this year which note not only warming temperatures, but also potentially dramatic consequences. As President Barack Obama settles into the White House, I hope he heard this news and felt compelled to act.
The Rasmussen poll on global warming found that 46 percent of people polled, compared to an opposing 32 percent, believe that there is a direct conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. I respectfully disagree, and I believe President Obama does as well. I am hopeful that our new administration will embrace independent science and research in a way that promotes effective policies. President Obama has voiced his dedication to managing our economy in a way that will also promote environmental protection.
Our country needs help both economically and environmentally, and no longer should we believe that the two can not happen in harmony. Changing our economic system to one that embraces and promotes environmental protection will not only create jobs, but it also will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps as more Americans find work in “green jobs,” they will realize the incredible opportunity we have to combat not only global warming, but also our failing economy at the same time. Such recognition will enable us to link our economic development with environmental protection in the public consciousness, and hopefully restore the American faith in our government and economy, and also in science itself.