The Science and Politics of Global Warming
Raymond S. Bradley
Climate System Research Center
Department of Geosciences
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, U.S.A.
October 2, 2013
Carnegie Lecture Hall
Global temperatures have risen by ~1°C since the end of the 19th century. 2011 was one of the warmest years on record, and the last decade was the warmest, globally, for many centuries. These changes are driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, in 2013, CO2 levels surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in over 3 million years.
Almost every national science academy and scientific organization has accepted the evidence for human-induced global warming, yet many influential politicians dismiss the scientific reality and so political action to reduce carbon emissions has stalled in Congress. While politicians sit on their hands and do little to help control CO2 emissions, the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase. More heat accumulates in the oceans, ocean acidification increases and sea-level keeps rising as glaciers and ice caps melt.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has recognized the reality of global warming and acknowledged the real dangers that it poses for the future. Although taking steps to address the matter is difficult, many countries have embraced the opportunity to reduce energy consumption, implement conservation strategies and promote new technologies that involve energy production from non-carbon based fuels. Politicians who embrace these strategies represent the future. Those who don’t will simply become footnotes in history.
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