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Climbing aboard the climate-change bandwagon
By RICHARD AMRHINE
Prior to the industrial/automotive age, the atmosphere easily dispelled whatever CO2 the planet generated. Over the past 30 years, though, scientists realized that all the CO2 being generated by cars, factories, and non-nuclear power plants is collecting in the atmosphere faster than it can naturally dissipate. The overabundance of CO2 is now trapping too much of the sun's heat.
As the planet's temperature has risen, the polar ice caps, its natural cooling system, have melted and receded, reducing their cooling power.
It's easy to assume because the Earth is so big and so old in evolutionary terms that there's nothing we could do to harm it--at least nothing we have to worry about for, say, a million years. Recent extreme climate changes attributed to global warming, however, have occurred in the blink of an eye by Earth-science standards. The sooner people set aside their skepticism about climate change and its effects, the sooner positive strides can be taken.
That skepticism includes blaming global warming for the nasty hurricanes of recent years and other weather extremes that cause drought and flooding. The point here, one that Gore emphasizes, is that global warming isn't responsible for these things, but rather intensifies them. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina would have been less powerful, or the drought in Africa less severe, if it weren't for global warming.
Before the science behind this emerged, all we knew was that the industrial revolution begat American prosperity, and that the automobile enhanced our personal freedom. Few would trade the convenience and quality of life that our electric appliances and electronic equipment have brought us.
But now that we know the damage we're causing, inaction equals irresponsibility. Visit
RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.