Monday, February 5, 2007
You likely slept through it, but at 10 a.m. in Paris on Friday, Feb. 2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the scientific basis of climate change. Written by 600 scientists, reviewed by another 1500, and then passed through the bureaucracies of 154 governments, the report establishes, with over 90 percent probability, that humans have caused atmospheric warming. Unfortunately, many Americans are still ignorant of the scientific consensus, impeding the political will to address climate change. Just last week a Reuters poll showed that 13 percent of Americans have never heard of global warming.
And consider the recent events in Federal Way, WA, a city located between Seattle and Tacoma: Parents of one student objected to a scheduled viewing of Al Gore’s global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Citing apocalyptic religious beliefs that are not represented in the film, the parents demanded that the school also present an opposing view, and the school board agreed.
Rejection of Gore’s documentary is becoming a trend in schools across the country, but there is an especially bitter irony to the case in Federal Way. The potential impact of climate change on the Pacific Northwest and, more specifically, the Puget Sound region should literally wash out skepticism and redirect the uproar.
Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest increased over 0.6 degrees C in the last century. By the 2020s, average temperatures will have jumped approximately 1.7 degrees C and then 2.8 degrees by the 2050s. The world, on average, has warmed roughly 0.7 degrees C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. The earth can be expected to warm another full degree by mid-century from the greenhouse gases in the air right now, and if we are unable to stabilize carbon dioxide concentrations at 550 parts per million (ppm), temperatures are likely to warm at least 2 degrees C above the pre-industrial era. With 2 degrees C of warming humans will have irreversibly triggered the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will raise sea levels some 20 feet.