Scientific Uncertainty

Despite these scientific findings, however, there was considerable disagreement within the scientific community about global warming throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Many scientists accepted that a warming trend was likely but believed that average temperatures would rise only a few degrees in the next century—not a significant change that seemed to require immediate policy changes. In addition, a number of scientists were equally concerned about the effects of smog—air pollutants from fossil fuels that could potentially block sunlight and cause the world to cool, rather than heat up. In fact, a cooling trend was recorded between the 1940s and 1970s, when air pollution became a serious problem in developed countries such as the United States. No one was completely sure whether the Earth would dip into another ice age or heat up as global warming theory predicted. Most scientists at this time agreed only that the Earth's climate was very complicated and that more research was needed before accurate predictions about the effect of human activity on climate change could be made.

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