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MYTH: The science of global warming is still too uncertain to act on.
FACT: There is NO debate among scientists about the basic facts of global warming.
The most respected scientific bodies have stated unequivocally that global warming is occurring, and people are causing it by burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil and natural gas) and cutting down forests. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences issued a joint statement with 10 other National Academies of Science saying "the scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action." (Joint Statement of Science Academies: Global Response to Climate Change, 2005)
The only debate in the science community about global warming is about how much and how fast warming will continue as a result of heat-trapping emissions. Scientists have given a clear warning about global warming, and we have more than enough facts - about causes and fixes - to implement solutions right now.
MYTH: Even if global warming is a problem, addressing it will hurt American industry and workers.
FACT: A well designed trading program will harness American ingenuity to decrease heat-trapping pollution cost-effectively, jumpstarting a new carbon economy.
Claims that fighting global warming will cripple the economy and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs are unfounded. In fact, companies that are already reducing their heat-trapping emissions have discovered that cutting pollution can save money. The cost of a comprehensive national greenhouse gas reduction program will depend on the precise emissions targets, the timing for the reductions and the means of implementation.
A mandatory cap on emissions could spur technological innovation that could create jobs and wealth. Letting global warming continue until we are forced to address it on an emergency basis could disrupt and severely damage our economy. It is far wiser and more cost-effective to act now.
MYTH: Global warming and extra CO2 will actually be beneficial--they reduce cold-related deaths and stimulate crop growth.
FACT: Any beneficial effects will be far outweighed by damage and disruption.
Even a warming in just the middle range of scientific projections would have devastating impacts on many sectors of the economy. Rising seas would inundate coastal communities, contaminate water supplies with salt and increase the risk of flooding by storm surge, affecting tens of millions of people globally. Moreover, extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts and floods, are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity, causing loss of lives and property and throwing agriculture into turmoil.
Even though higher levels of CO2 can act as a plant fertilizer under some conditions, scientists now think that the "CO2 fertilization" effect on crops has been overstated; in natural ecosystems, the fertilization effect can diminish after a few years as plants acclimate. Higher levels of CO2 have already caused ocean acidification, and scientists are warning of potentially devastating effects on marine life.
MYTH: Global warming is just part of a natural cycle. The Arctic has warmed up in the past.
FACT: The global warming we are experiencing is not natural. People are causing it.
We are pumping far more CO2 into the atmosphere than was ever released naturally in hundreds of thousands of years. Though natural amounts of CO2 have varied from 180 to 300 parts per million, today's CO2 levels are around 380 ppm--25% more than the highest natural levels over the past 650,000 years.
MYTH: We can adapt to climate change-civilization has survived droughts and temperature shifts before.
FACT: Although humans as a whole have survived the vagaries of drought, stretches of warmth and cold and more, entire societies have collapsed in the past from dramatic climatic shifts.
The consequences of continued warming at current rates are likely to be dire. Low-lying coastal regions are highly vulnerable to climate shifts. A middle-of-the-range projection is that the homes of 13 to 88 million people around the world would be flooded by the sea each year in the 2080s. Poorer countries and small island nations will have the hardest time adapting. Even if people find a way to adapt, the wildlife and plants on which we depend may be unable to adapt to rapid climate change. While the world itself will not end, the world as we know it may disappear.
MYTH: Recent cold winters and cool summers don't feel like global warming to me.
FACT: While different pockets of the country have experienced some cold winters here and there, the overall trend is warmer winters.
A single year of cold weather in one region of the globe is not an indication of a trend in the global climate, which refers to a long-term average over the entire planet. Measurements show that over the last century the Earth's climate has warmed overall in most regions.
MYTH: Accurate weather predictions a few days in advance are hard to come by. Why on earth should we have confidence in climate projections decades from now?
FACT: Climate prediction is fundamentally different from weather prediction.
The accuracy of weather forecasting is critically dependent upon being able to exactly and comprehensively characterize the present state of the global atmosphere. Climate prediction relies on other, longer ranging factors. For instance, climate tells us that Seattle and London tend to be rainy, Florida and southern California are usually warm, and the Southwest is often dry and hot.
MYTH: Global warming can't be happening because some glaciers and ice sheets are growing, not shrinking.
FACT: In most parts of the world, the retreat of glaciers has been dramatic.
The best available scientific data indicate that Greenland's massive ice sheet is shrinking. Between 1961 and 1997, the world's glaciers lost 890 cubic miles of ice. And there are worrisome signs that melting is accelerating: glaciers are moving into the ocean twice as fast as a decade ago, and, over time, more and more glaciers have started to accelerate. What is most alarming is the prediction, based on model calculations and historical evidence, that an approximately 5.4 degree Fahrenheit increase in local Greenland temperatures will lead to irreversible meltdown and a sea-level rise of over 20 feet. Since the Arctic is warming 2-3 times faster than the global average, this tipping point is not far away.
Reprinted from the Environmental Defense Fund. For more information visit www.edf.org
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