Climate science vs. Washington politics
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 9:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 9:56 a.m.
This editorial is from the Washington Post:
Speaker John Boehner has made some encouraging statements since last week’s election, pointing toward productive policy
Climate science is complicated, but the basic physical principles on which the scientific consensus is based are not. Gases such as carbon dioxide trap the energy that pours down on the Earth from the sun, making the Earth habitable. Since the middle of the 20th century, scientists have studied the warming effects of adding large amounts of additional heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, and they have made great progress since then in describing how and why the world is warming, and how that trend is likely to play out years and decades from now.
Scientists use real-world observations to describe the climate’s past, recent and distant. Then they build complex models that reflect those and other observations and run them on supercomputers. After decades of this, nearly every expert agrees that global warming is a problem and that a chief cause is the oil, gas and coal burned by humans. The biggest question now is not whether human-produced greenhouse emissions have an effect but how significant that effect will be.
Predictions about the future climate must be tempered by an appreciation of the uncertainties inherent to describing extremely complicated earth systems. But the risks of global warming that decades of science describe are clearly great enough to warrant action.
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