Mar 7, 2006

Rising Temperatures: Precautions needed to control global warming

by David Ernest



Global temperatures have been rising steadily in the past two decades; we know this for a fact. The question at hand is with regard to the cause of this event. Is this a trend induced by human activity, or just another cycle in temperature fluctuations?

Unfortunately, we simply do not know, and yet no effective policy has been implemented to fight this potential hazard. Instead, we have demanded more research into a problem that could potentially be getting worse by the day. What you are about to read is not a case for global warming, but an apology for some type of preventative measure before it is too late.

Before I begin to argue for any resolute action, I’ll quickly reiterate what global warming has been attributed to. The “greenhouse effect,” as it is referred to, is the process by which the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs and retains energy from the sun. Upon hitting the earth, some of this energy is absorbed by the planet’s surface, and some is radiated back into the atmosphere. This is the point where the essence of the greenhouse effect can be seen: some of the heat-energy passes through the atmosphere, but some is retained by the presence of greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. An increase in the amount of retained radiation leads to the obvious: a rise in temperatures.

Many who have argued against global warming have claimed that there is no evidence for the existence of this event. Temperatures have fluctuated through history, and it is possible that this is just another such variance in the course of time. However, I believe that such a statement is both misguided and unwise. The trend we are experiencing is the first of its kind since the Industrial Revolution began spouting large quantities of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere. Simply stated, we are in a unique time period where the likelihood of human contribution to this problem is unparalleled. We already know that humans have the ability to affect the atmosphere as this can be seen in the ozone depletion, so I believe it is time to seriously consider the possibility of global warming and take the necessary preventative action.

What has disturbed me most was a recent claim by a NASA scientist that the Bush administration was attempting to gag a presentation of evidence that global warming has sped up and is becoming an imminent threat.

Fox News reported that James E. Hansen, a NASA physicist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said, “In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now.” He went on to say that the administration only desires to hear evidence that corroborates the “predetermined, inflexible positions” it currently holds. One can only hope this is not the case, but if it is, our presidential administration is failing us in that it refuses to see the potential hazards of global warming.

Recently, a group of prominent Christians signed what was termed the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the New York Times reported on Feb. 8. Among these leaders were James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Charles Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship Ministries; Richard Land, president of the Ethics Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, and pastor Rick Warren. These individuals don’t necessarily have a firm belief that global warming is a contemporary occurrence, but they recognize the possibility that, if it is true, humanity could be on a track to permanently damage our environment.

Although I’m not a huge fan of Rick Warren, and I’d read Kierkegaard’s “Training in Christianity” over “The Purpose Driven Life” any day, I think Mr. Warren stated the case well when he said, “Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough.” I couldn’t agree more, and it is time to stop regarding stewardship of the Earth as a left-wing idealist sentiment.

While it is true that we do lack the long-term data necessary to come to any conclusive statement as to the current state of our climate, it is time to err on the side of caution and take significant preventative measures to protect this planet with which we have been entrusted.

Contact David Ernest at dwernest@liberty.edu.


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