Coping With Global Climate Change Adaptation

Enough research has been conducted that scientists have determined that, if CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reach twice their pre-industrial levels (278 ppm), global climate will probably warm 3.5 to 8°F (2.1-4.8°C). Scientists also warn that there is a 10 percent chance warming could be even higher and doubling of CO2 concentrations could occur sometime around 2050 if immediate action is not taken to find renewable sources of energy.

Climate change scientists also warn that even if CO2 levels increase only moderately, it will significantly alter ecosystems, water supplies, and food sources. Warming in the United States is anticipated to be about one-third greater than the global average. Americans will experience rising sea levels, enhanced water cycles resulting in more precipitation, temperature extremes, and increased storm activity. This will affect not only humans, but ecosystems as well.

There are two sides to the global warming issue: those who see it as a real threat and those who do not. There has emerged a middle group. According to Mike Hulme of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in Britain, this new middle-of-the-road group believes it is the uncertainty of the global warming issue that makes it critical to act now, before it gets any worse. He believes the best strategy is to "raise public appreciation of the unprecedented scale and nature of the challenge." He also emphasizes that "climate change is not a problem waiting for a solution, but a powerful idea that will transform the way we develop." Hulme also stresses that although it is important for the public to take proactive steps, people should not panic. Panicking will help no one; it will do nothing but slow the corrective process.

Jerry D. Mahlman, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, says, "This is a mega-ethical challenge." He also said that "the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cannot be quickly reversed with existing technologies. Even if every engine on Earth were shut down today, there would be no measurable impact on the warming rate for many years, given the buildup of heat already banked in the seas." He believes that because of the scale and time lag, a better strategy is to treat human-caused warming more as a risk to be reduced than a problem to be solved.

Humans must also learn to cope with global warming. They must develop strategies to manage what is to come in the next 100 or more years. In order to do this, it is important to understand how natural systems will or can adapt. Humans will be required to adapt to the changes.

With the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere and stored in the oceans, warming is inevitable. The resulting failure or success of the adaptation will, in the end, be a result of the individual and collective attitudes of people. Working together and cutting back is possible. Some scientists believe that educating the public about these issues is the best approach; once the public understands what is at stake and realizes it can be part of the solution, there will be more willingness to help and adapt. There are many opportunities for Americans to cut back. The United States is home to 5 percent of the world's population, but contributes 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country in the world.

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