Environmental Protection

Yeah, It's Getting Hotter Out There

Clarifying that he was not there to debate man's contribution to global warming, Mike Slattery, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Environmental Science at Texas Christian University (TCU), instead pointed out that the issue has become political, not scientific. "That's a shame," he commented.

Slattery and his colleague, John Breyer, Ph.D., a professor of the TCU geology department, came together to present the facts before a Fort Worth Chapter meeting of the Society of Texas Environmental Professionals a few months ago. About 95 people were in attendance, a larger crowd than meetings typically command, according to one of the regulars. This was my first meeting.

I came because a reader suggested it. He wanted to make sure that I was up to date on the research. What I found out is that you can't cram all that science into 90 minutes and get any real meaning. But, oh well, here is what I learned:

Critics of global warming have called it a hoax while others say the issue is an important one. Whether they are politically or economically motivated, these perspectives often clash as policymakers try to determine the right thing to do. "A sound understanding of the science must be the basis of action," Slattery said. Popular understanding of the science has been shaped by former Vice President Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," which, Slattery said, "came with a lot of baggage."

"Responsible science is what the consensus is," Slattery said.

Research from many sectors points to the fact that we are in a different carbon dioxide scenario than in the past. The greenhouse effect is a basic physical principal. What is uncertain, he said, is the causal relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature. All science seems to agree that the planet is warming about 1 degree over the last 100 years.

And that is where the scientific facts end. Without measure, science turns to prediction, but the various computer models vary from 1.5 to 6.5 degrees in temperature change.

Slattery and Breyer threw up a number of graphs and cited many different studies. In the end, I threw up my hands.

Do you have any frustration with understanding the science of global warming?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Nov 12, 2008 at 12:43 PM


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