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Global Warming

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Sir David King recently wrote an article for the American journal Science criticising the US Government for failing to take global warming more seriously. He wrote: "In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism."

What do people think?

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Every week there are fresh pieces of evidence from the scientific world regarding the 'facts' about global warming. There is a lot of contradiction about what is causing it but the fact is that is does seem to be happening.

Only in last week's edition of the New Scientist there was an article suggesting that fresh water will be in shorter supply as climate change gathers pace. One new modelling study from Princeton University suggests that increasing temperatures will dramatically affect the World's great rivers in that some will become more swollen while others will dry up. The net result will be that water will not be available in sufficient quantities where many people across parts of the World currently live. The article later goes on the say that 'some of the findings are controversial' - the UK Met office model predicions are somewhat different!

The only solution, apparently, is to limit our production of greenhouse gases. 'Governments must act!' say the scientific writers. Yes, of course we should do as much as we can to protect the environment in which we live, but do we actually hold all the cards?

I am not convinced I must say. Our collection of evidence is from very recent years when we look at the history of the Earth. Is this a reasonable sample to be basing all our modelling predictions on? We know that the Earth's climate has been a lot warmer than it is now from fossil evidence. We know little about the actual reasons for the changes over time. Why should we be so totally convinced that what is happening now is purely down to the activities of mankind? ;)

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Analysing the arctic ice cores shows that greenhouse gas proportions have changed to higher levels since the start of the Industrial Revolution and we can measure that there is a balance between incoming solar radiation and changes in atmospheric heating. The fossil rock record links 'greenhouse gases' with the hotter periods of the planets history and also records that changes can occur quite rapidly. (less rapidly though than 'The Day After tomorrow' movie might suggest ! ) Deep sea sediment cores support the record of changing sea level and plant fossils show the effects of climate on local environments and these records can have a fine level of resolution.

Given the evidence it seems unfortunate to me that some countries trade in the levels of greenhouse gas ouput turning their backs on the problem - a clear indicator that finacial returns of the short term dictate how priorities of response are controlled too much by political and corporate issues. It might seem a prudent response in my view if we at least acknolwedge the changes we have made may be relevant and work to limit those effects. Attempting to slow the trend - if that were possible - might be too uncomfortable for us all to handle... after all tomorrow never comes.

For a detailed perspective on climate change and gas content in the fossil record - read 'The Great Ice Age' - Wilson, Drury and Chapman. 2000 - Routledge

Edited by Design-Technology
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