New thinking on global warming

According to a report issued by a committee of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2002, severe change in the earth’s climate can take place in less than a decade. This runs counter to the belief widely held as late as the 1980s that any significant change in average temperature over the earth’s surface would need centuries to be noticed.

The necessity of such a revision in our thinking about climate change first became apparent in the last decade of the 20th century. In the 1990s an analysis of cores drilled from the Greenland ice cap showed variation of the ratios of different isotopes of oxygen – a reliable measure of temperature – consistent with rapid temperature changes at the end of the last Ice Age (about 14,000 years ago).

Other types of data gave results that were consistent with this conclusion. Meanwhile, other data indicated that the earth’s average temperature is rapidly rising as the probable result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

A United Nations panel of scientists, meeting in China in January 2001 (before the National Academy of Sciences report was issued), predicted that the earth’s average temperature would rise as much as 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years.

This would cause sea levels to rise by as much as 35 inches, possibly causing catastrophic flooding in high-population, low-lying areas such as China, Bangladesh, and Egypt. This change could also induce crop failure, famine, and a spread of diseases such as malaria.

As a result of the earlier alarming indications, most of the world’s nations agreed on the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. This agreement, when implemented, would force industrialized countries to help reverse the global warming trend by significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning.

But in 2001, barely three months after he took office, George W. Bush announced that the United States (which accounts for 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions) was pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol.

Of course, it makes perfect sense for George W. Bush, a scion of one of the world’s wealthiest oil and gas families, to put the desire for short-term profits for his oil and gas buddies ahead of the interests of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population (including those of the U.S. working class).

A socialist USA (or even an enlightened capitalist USA) would have no economic interest in opposing measures to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Thus the problem of global warming becomes an argument for socialism or, in the short term, getting rid of George W. Bush in November of 2004.

Our work is cut out for us. In the interest of the survival of humanity, we must show Bush the door in 2004!

John Pappademos is a retired professor of physics. He can be reached at