An overwhelming consensus

The majority of the scientific community is no longer debating the basic facts of climate change. They have been accepted by the IPCC and backed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Geophysical Union. According to Gabriele Hegerl, associate research professor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, who was a coordinating lead author of the IPCC report's chapter on "Understanding and Attributing Climate Change," the IPCC's

2007 assessment "gives a very balanced view of the evidence for climate change, predictions of future change and the remaining uncertainties, and it draws input from a very large number of scientists worldwide. The information in the report will be very important to develop effective policies to address global climate change and to prepare for the change that is coming our way."

To see the signs of change, one only has to look. Climate change experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report that in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is arriving sooner and fall later. NOAA has also determined that sea level has already risen worldwide by about 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) during the last century. Roughly 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the rise has resulted from the melting of mountain glaciers. One example of melting glaciers can be found in Glacier National Park in Montana. The National Park Service reports that the glaciers there are now approximately one-third the size they were in 1850. To support the theory of global warming, climate reports at the park dating back to 1900 show a correlation between the rate of glacier retreat and the regional climate.

Another 0.7 to 2.8 inches (1.8-7 cm) of sea-level rise has resulted from the expansion of ocean water that comes from warmer ocean temperatures as global warming heats them up. When experts study global warming issues through the development of climate models they predict the Earth will warm 1.8 to 6.3° F (1-3.8°C) by the year 2100, with a best estimate of 3.6°F (2.2°C). According to the experts, the time to act is now.

Interestingly, even groups that have traditionally been skeptics of global warming, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, backed down in April 2007 and acknowledged that global warming and its human influence was indeed real. Over the past several years, many who had been outspoken in their denial of global warming have changed their opinions as the evidence of human-induced global warming has continued to mount.

Another issue concerns the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol (the Protocol) is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its objective is the reduction of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It was adopted on December 11,

1997, at the Third Conference of the Parties to the treaty when they met in Kyoto, Japan, and entered into force on February 16, 2005. As of April 2008, 178 parties have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol and committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels specified by the treaty.

The United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, however. Although the Clinton administration did sign the Protocol in 1998, on March 29, 2001, the Bush administration withdrew the United States from it because they believed the Protocol was "fundamentally flawed and was not the correct vehicle with which to produce real environmental solutions." The following statement from Washington, D.C., was issued on March 29, 2001: "The Kyoto Protocol does not provide the long-term solution the world seeks to the problem of global warming. The goals of the Kyoto Protocol were established not by science, but by political negotiation, and are therefore arbitrary and ineffective in nature. In addition, many countries of the world are completely exempted from the Protocol, such as China and India, who are two of the top five emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Further, the Protocol could have potentially significant repercussions for the global economy."

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