Feature

Global Warming

Can it be stopped?

The debate about global warming is over, said William Stevens in The New York Times. No longer can skeptics brush off melting glaciers and flowers blooming in January as simple vagaries of nature. Last week, the world's most authoritative group of climate scientists declared unequivocally that the world is getting warmer. Furthermore, said the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there's at least a 90 percent chance that humans are to blame. The chief culprit, of course, is the carbon dioxide and other 'œgreenhouse gases' that factories, cars, and most energy-consuming activities spew into the atmosphere. These gases trap so much heat from the sun that the panel expects they 'œwill most likely warm the earth by about 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit'—and possibly by as much as 12 degrees—by the year 2100. The effects could be catastrophic, said Elizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker. We can expect crippling heat waves and droughts, and more Katrina-strength hurricanes. Rising seas will submerge communities along the continental coasts. Clearly, it would be 'œsuicidal' not to mandate dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, even if the costs are great.

Let's not get hysterical, said National Review Online in an editorial. 'œClimate change is real,' but if you examine the report carefully, it does not justify shutting down the world's economy. If anything, this study 'œrepresents a pullback' in the scientists' estimates of the damage that a modestly warmer atmosphere would cause. In its last report, in 2001, the panel predicted that sea levels would rise by up to 3 feet by 2100. Yet their new study cuts that figure to 17 inches at most. Estimates of temperature increases also were downgraded. Clearly, atmospheric scientists are still guessing at what's going on, and why.

Jack Kelly

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Philip Stott

The Wall Street Journal

Robert Samuelson

The Washington Post

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