Guest Column: Is it hot in here or is it just confusing? Climate-change issue muddled

“Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.”

– Edward R. Murrow

 

I’m usually not one to get easily confused, unless I have been given instructions by my wife. Somehow they always get scrambled.

You would think that information coming from well-respected scientists who live and breathe real facts every day would be easy to understand. However, somewhere along the way, a thick fog set in over the discussion about global warming. For every opinion on one side, there is an opinion on the other side. And both sides say they have the facts to back them up! What are we to do?

 

I’M NOT A SCIENTIST, but I do remember from my public-school science class in Thomson that a long time ago there was something called the Ice Age. Woolly mammoths and such creatures roamed the planet. It was really cold!

However, something changed. We no longer go out into the back yard to chip out a block of ice to cool our tea. We have to get it from a refrigerator. That’s because the ice melted. Earth was getting warmer, and it has continued to warm.

The big argument today revolves around the extent to which humans are responsible for changing the climate. We no longer can blame it on the woolly mammoth.

Global warming got my attention again when a report by some scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa was published in the journal Nature. The authors predict that, by 2047, temperatures around the globe will be hotter than they’ve been everywhere since before the Civil War.

 

ONE OF THE authors, Camilo Mora, is quoted as saying that “the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past.” A statement like that can quickly get your attention, especially when you factor in the cost of air conditioning.

I wanted to see just what this would mean to Augusta. How hot is it getting here? How hot is the new cold going to be? Right away, the facts have me confused.

The average high temperature for October in Augusta is 77 degrees. The average low temperature is 52 degrees. To put that in perspective, it’s cooler here now than it was in 1950, when the average high was 80 degrees and the low was 55 degrees.

To look at it another way, the mean temperature is 64.5 degrees, which means there are as many warmer days as there are colder days. In 1950, the mean temperature was near 67 degrees.

So, now I’m really confused. If you follow the thinking of the folks in Hawaii, the average low temperature in October in Augusta will be 77 degrees in 24 years. What are we to make of this – especially when it is cooler here now than it was almost 65 years ago?

 

THAT MAY BE generously overstating the evolution of our climate, but it points out the clouded atmosphere in which the global warming debate is occurring. Many researchers focus on the polar regions, and map a shrinking ice cap. More recently, though, we’ve gotten reports of growing ice caps, along with increasing polar bear populations in the north and more penguins in the south.

The new report from Dr. Mora’s colleagues in Hawaii suggests growing risks from global warming in the tropics. It’s good information to add into the mix. Respected publications such as National Review, National Geographic and Mother Jones all take us in different directions with their analyses.

 

SOME WELL-MEANING folks warn us that global warming is a conspiracy theory. More than a third of American voters believe it’s a hoax. But then, nearly as many folks believe aliens exist.

Most scientists agree with my science teacher in the Thomson public schools that the planet has gotten warmer since the Ice Age. There’s even a more recent number to back that up. Average temperatures around the world have climbed 1.4 degrees since 1880. Granted, much of that increase has come in recent times, but it flattened out in 1998.

The United Nations has been trying for years to get a global agreement to limit human activity that may contribute to a warming environment. The world’s big polluters won’t sign on for obvious economic reasons. That didn’t stop mayors in the United States in the past decade from forming their own coalition to address climate issues in their cities.

We’ve all heard about greenhouse gases, carbon footprints and the other terms scientists and advocates toss around. They’re the group that keeps driving the progressive environmental agenda advocated by the president and his Environmental Protection Agency.

 

NO ONE WILL argue against clean air – just like we all endorse clean water. But competing claims about how hot it is, who’s responsible (if anyone is) and how that will affect us do nothing to clear the air.

It really just leaves us – well, confused.

 

(The writer – Augusta’s mayor from 1999 to 2005, and a former assistant deputy secretary for the U.S. Depart­ment of Hou­sing and Urban De­vel­op­ment – is retiring at the end of this year as president and chief executive officer of the South­eastern Natural Sci­ences Aca­demy, the research and education arm of Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.)

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