Global warming myths and facts

and other venues. It receives a lot of attention because it is more than a scientific issue—it also affects economics, sociology, and people's lifestyles and standards of living. It is one of the most passionate political issues, not only in the United States, but worldwide as public demands for a solution have intensified.

Myth: The Earth has warmed up before. Maybe what is happening today is natural.

Fact: The global warming of today is not natural. Scientists have already considered—and ruled out—natural explanations. Today's CO2 levels are the highest they have been in the past 650,000 years.

Myth: Civilization can adapt to climate, whether it is hot or cold.

Fact: Changes in climate have been responsible for the destruction of many civilizations in the past. At the very least, global warming will cause major hardships and suffering, both physically and financially. Even worse, it will affect not just those living today, but for generations to come. Scientists also warn that it is expected there will be a greater warming trend than human civilization has ever faced in the past 10,000 years.

Myth: If the ozone hole shrinks, global warming will go away.

Fact: The ozone hole and global warming are two different problems. Global warming involves the lower part of the atmosphere (the troposphere) and is caused by the increasing concentrations of heat-trapping gases. The ozone hole involves the loss of ozone in the upper part of the atmosphere (the stratosphere), which allows incoming harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun to reach the Earth's surface.

Myth: Global warming is not happening because not all of the glaciers and ice sheets are melting.

Fact: Most of the world's glaciers have been retreating. Some have had regional gains where storm frequency has increased. The overall trends are that ice sheets are melting and many of the rates are accelerating.

More than 2,500 of the world's most renowned scientists from many diverse disciplines, represented by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), support the concept of global warming and agree that there is absolutely no scientific doubt that the atmosphere is warming. They also believe that human activ-ities—especially burning fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal), deforestation, and environmentally unfriendly farming practices—are playing a significant role in the problem.

The science of global warming does not come with a crystal ball. Scientists do not know exactly what will happen, such as what the specific impacts to specific areas will be, nor can they say with certainty when or where the impacts will hit the hardest. But they are certain that the effects will be serious and globally far-reaching. According to the NOAA/NASA/EPA Climate Change Partnership (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency), potential effects include increased human mortality, extinction of plant and animal species, increased severe weather, drought, and dangerous rises in sea levels.

Although climatologists still argue about how fast the Earth is warming and how much it will ultimately warm, they do agree that global warming is happening right now and that the Earth will continue to warm if something is not done soon to stop it.

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