Preponderance of Evidence

It’s difficult to believe that there are still doubters. Alexander Cockburn, for instance, writing in The Nation over the summer, called global warming a “new dogma” and advocates for addressing climate change “naïve.” And this is coming from the left.

From the right, the critiques have been more pronounced. Steven Milloy, a self-described junk science expert and adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, calls the concern over climate change “Gore-based hysteria.”

But with every passing day, the evidence supporting the theory that man is making the planet dangerously warmer grows stronger and more ironclad.

A recent study in the science journal Nature says that humans are responsible for increasing humidity. And increasing humidity may be leading to increased storm intensity and helping to further accelerate the warming of the atmosphere.

Then came the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s final “Synthesis Report,” which calls climate change “unequivocal” and says that human activity is largely responsible. The report says that growth in the emission of greenhouse gases must stop by 2015 and begin shrinking soon after or the world could face “mounting grim prospects,” according to the Washington Post.

“We need to define thresholds beyond which we won’t go. It really is a matter of life or death for some communities on Earth,” IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri told the Post. “The choice for us is to see where it is we want to draw the line.”

That should be an easy choice, as both reports make clear.

“To avoid heating the globe by the minimum possible, an average of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to a Post on the IPCC report, “the world’s spiraling growth in greenhouse gas emissions must end no later than 2015,” the report said, and must start to drop quickly after that peak. By 2050, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric polluting gases must be reduced by 50 to 85 percent, according to the estimates.

“That would require a drastic reworking of industrial processes, transportation, agricultural practices and even the buildings people live in, according to the report’s calculations.”

It’s not the most upbeat of projections, but the alternatives are much worse.

According to the Post’s account of the report, “if the world misses that target and does not stabilize carbon dioxide emissions until 2030, for example, the planet’s temperature will increase by as much as 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit above 2000 temperatures ... That level of warming would result in widespread extinctions of species, a slowing of the global currents, decreased food production, loss of 30 percent of global wetlands, flooding for millions of people and higher deaths from heat waves.”

The report in Nature offers similarly stark analysis. Over the last three decades, the amount of moisture in the lower atmosphere increased by about 2.2%. Using computer models, the study found that “human activity is behind the rising levels of water vapour in the lower atmosphere over the past few decades,” which “could affect patterns of extreme storms.”

The study says that the increased moisture could “exacerbate problems with extreme precipitation and tropical cyclones.”

Translation: We could be facing more intense storms in the future.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says that the warmer temperatures and higher humidities are leading to rising sea levels and stronger storms and storm surges. The reason is that warm ocean temperatures, low vertical wind shear and high humidity work together to intensify storms, though scientists disagree on which factor plays the greatest role. Long-term trends indicate that “global warming is the overarching factor” in the increase in category 4 and 5 storms around the globe.

The UCS says the United States has to impose deep reductions in greenhouse gases — enough to cut emissions by 80% over the next 40-plus years.

This won’t be easy and must include new technologies, changes in how much and what we drive and an increase in the use of mass transit, urban planning that will concentrate growth and development in central areas to minimize suburban sprawl, placement of jobs and homes closer together and preservation of trees and other green spaces that help filter out pollution.

But it has to be done, regardless of what the naysayers say. We can’t wait any longer.

Hank Kalet is a poet and managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and The Cranbury Press in Dayton, N.J. E-mail See his blog, Channel Surfing, at

From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2007

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