There is a lot of debate as to whether climate change is exaggerated, or if there is even a such thing as global warming. Some people believe that there is no global warming, but that the earth’s climate goes through cycles, and the global temperature just happens to be a little bit warmer at this point in the cycle. Depending on who you ask, you are bound to get many different answers to this question.
For example, Al Gore, who made the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” would most likely tell you that climate change is not exaggerated. However, there have been many people who have said that this documentary, and other claims about climate change, have been exaggerated, sometimes even for economic benefit.
Personally, and I do feel the nature of the debate renders this a matter of opinion, (for another century, at least), I think climate change is often understated. For instance, if you look at the IPCC’s literature, many of their estimates concerning sea-level rise and temperature fluctuations will be significantly more conservative than those of other, reputable publications. One example of this can be seen in the IPCC’s singular decision not to include rapis ice-flow changes in its sea-level estimates, resulting in significantly lower sea-level rise estimations (see first link below).
I think this happens for a couple reasons. First, the nature of climate change itself – because it is such a huge issues, comprised of so many different variables, it’s almost impossible to predict with complete certainty the extent of its effects. Thus, and this is the second reason, to “cover their bases”, international organizations worried about maintaining legitimacy will offer conservative estimates. This prevents governments (like the US) from accusing them of sensationalism when their predictions aren’t 100% accurate. In regards to their reputation, it’s better to guess low than to guess high (of course the implications for countries which use the lower estimates in contingency planning is another story).
This environmentalist blog (second link) actually deals with exactly this issue, with a lot of links to primary source information. It’s definitely an interesting debate though.
I agree with the first poster- I tend to think global warming is extremely understated. Global warming is responsible not only for an average annual rise in temperature across the globe, but also for strange weather patterns. There are blizzards affecting much of the United States and Europe right now, but in northern Canada and Greenland temperatures are far above average. It’s easy for skeptics to point to the blizzard conditions and state that global warming couldn’t be real if the southern U.S. is getting snowed in, but studies suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice due to global warming is one of the reasons for unusual weather patterns.
I think a big problem in the so-called global warming “debate” is people assuming that just because there are two sides, they must both have equal merit. Yes, some people think global warming is a big problem and others say it’s nothing to worry about at all. But the people saying global warming is real and dangerous are trained scientists from all over the world, and they have mountains of data supporting their argument. The people that say it’s fake are politicians, pundits, and business interests, and 99% of their arguments are easily disproved just by looking up the information. Nevermind that a lot of them are funded by the people who profit from global warming to deliberately create confusion in the public.
It’s sad that people’s trust is being taken advantage of, but you really do have to be careful about who you believe. If you had cancer, whose advice would you trust about how to get better: a doctor’s? or Glen Beck’s? Obviously, you’d want someone who actually understands how cancer works. It’s exactly the same deal with climate change, and all the people who are doctors for the planet say it’s very dangerously ill.
Unfortunately, scientists aren’t the best at interacting with the public -especially compared to companies that have a lot of money and experience in advertising. It’s all too easy for those who want the public to underestimate the dangers of climate change to accomplish just that.
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