by Debra A. Miller


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Miller, Debra A.

Global warming / by Debra A. Miller.

p. cm. — (Hot topics) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4205-0049-3 (hardcover) 1. Global warming. I. Title. QC981.8.G56M56 2009 363.738'74—dc22


Lucent Books 27500 Drake Rd. Farmington Hills, MI 48331

ISBN-13: 978-1-4205-0049-3 ISBN-10: 1-4205-0049-X

Printed in the United States of America 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 12 11 10 09 08





Global Warming: A Planetary Emergency

chapter one


The Science of Global Warming

chapter Two


Predicting the Future

chapter three


Threats Posed by Global Warming

chapter four


Solutions for Global Warming

chapter five


Preparing for a Warmer Future



discussion questions


organizations to contact


for more information




picture credits


about the author


Young people today are bombarded with information. Aside from traditional sources such as newspapers, television, and the radio, they are inundated with a nearly continuous stream of data from electronic media. They send and receive e-mails and instant messages, read and write online "blogs," participate in chat rooms and forums, and surf the Web for hours. This trend is likely to continue. As Patricia Senn Breivik, the former dean of university libraries at Wayne State University in Detroit, has stated, "Information overload will only increase in the future. By 2020, for example, the available body of information is expected to double every 73 days! How will these students find the information they need in this coming tidal wave of information?"

Ironically, this overabundance of information can actually impede efforts to understand complex issues. Whether the topic is abortion, the death penalty, gay rights, or obesity, the deluge of fact and opinion that floods the print and electronic media is overwhelming. The news media report the results of polls and studies that contradict one another. Cable news shows, talk radio programs, and newspaper editorials promote narrow viewpoints and omit facts that challenge their own political biases. The World Wide Web is an electronic minefield where legitimate scholars compete with the postings of ordinary citizens who may or may not be well-informed or capable of reasoned argument. At times, strongly worded testimonials and opinion pieces both in print and electronic media are presented as factual accounts.

Conflicting quotes and statistics can confuse even the most diligent researchers. A good example of this is the question of whether or not the death penalty deters crime. For instance, one study found that murders decreased by nearly one-third when the death penalty was reinstated in New York in 1995. Death penalty supporters cite this finding to support their argument that the existence of the death penalty deters criminals from committing murder. However, another study found that states without the death penalty have murder rates below the national average. This study is cited by opponents of capital punishment, who reject the claim that the death penalty deters murder. Students need context and clear, informed discussion if they are to think critically and make informed decisions.

The Hot Topics series is designed to help young people wade through the glut of fact, opinion, and rhetoric so that they can think critically about controversial issues. Only by reading and thinking critically will they be able to formulate a viewpoint that is not simply the parroted views of others. Each volume of the series focuses on one of today's most pressing social issues and provides a balanced overview of the topic. Carefully crafted narrative, fully documented primary and secondary source quotes, informative sidebars, and study questions all provide excellent starting points for research and discussion. Full-color photographs and charts enhance all volumes in the series. With its many useful features, the Hot Topics series is a valuable resource for young people struggling to understand the pressing issues of the modern era.



Global Warming: a Planetary Emergency

Global warming (also called climate change) refers to rising global temperatures caused by high levels of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. At least some of these greenhouse gasses are produced by burning fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal. In recent years, global warming has become the world's most urgent environmental issue. Many commentators attribute the rising public awareness about this issue to the efforts of former American vice president and 2000 presidential candidate Al Gore, who since his defeat in the presidential race has waged a worldwide publicity campaign about the dangers of global warming. Gore's campaign began with speeches and a slide show of compelling photos, graphs, and time lines, but in 2006, Gore unveiled a documentary and book on the topic, both named An Inconvenient Truth.

The documentary was critically acclaimed and won two 2006 Academy Awards for best documentary and best original song. In the film, Gore uses humor, science, and personal stories to show how human activities that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the cause of the rise in Earth's temperatures. Warmer temperatures, Gore warns, are melting the polar ice caps and leading to dramatic climate changes such as rising sea levels that could engulf some of the world's major coastal cities. The film claims global warming may already be producing frightening weather, including stronger hurricanes, flooding, and torrential rains for some parts of the world, and record heat and drought in other areas. These climate changes,

Gore says, could in turn result in numerous other problems— everything from new mosquito-borne disease pandemics to the loss of animal species, such as the polar bear, that cannot adapt quickly enough to the rapid temperature increases.

Later in 2006, Gore won an international award—the Nobel Peace Prize—for his efforts. He shared the award with scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations (UN) organization set up to investigate and report on the causes, effects, and solutions to climate change. In his acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, on December 10, 2007, Gore said, "We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency, a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential." He urged the public and policy makers to act now to prevent what could become catastrophic disasters in the future, explaining, "We have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst, though not all, of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly."1

Former vice president Al Gore (center) receives the Nobel Peace Price for his work on climate change on December 10, 2007.

Former vice president Al Gore (center) receives the Nobel Peace Price for his work on climate change on December 10, 2007.

The other recipient of the Nobel Prize, the IPCC, was honored because of a series of scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, which the Nobel committee said had created a broad consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. The IPCC's latest report, "Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change," warned that unless governments act quickly to reduce global emissions, greenhouse gases could rise by 25 to 90 percent over year 2000 levels by the year 2030. The report urged governments to slow and reverse these emissions trends and stabilize the level of greenhouse gases remaining in the atmosphere at around 445-490

At the U.S. embassy in Hamburg, Germany, environmental activists from the group Greenpeace voice their disapproval of the Bush administration's nonsupport of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.

At the U.S. embassy in Hamburg, Germany, environmental activists from the group Greenpeace voice their disapproval of the Bush administration's nonsupport of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001.

parts per million (ppm)—a level that would hold average global temperature increases to 3.6 to 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius). This IPCC goal, however, would require governments to reduce emissions dramatically over today's levels. In fact, experts say countries such as the United States would need to reduce emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, and Gore urges the country to take the lead with a 90 percent reduction in the United States.

Such significant emissions reductions, however, will be a daunting challenge given the United States' history of virtually ignoring global warming. President George W. Bush, for example, began his administration by abruptly reversing a campaign promise to regulate U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and by withdrawing the United States from ongoing negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty negotiated in 1997 that set targets for emissions reductions by developed nations. Instead, Bush advocated an approach based on what he called "greenhouse gas intensity," a way of measuring greenhouse emissions according to economic output. Under this approach, companies are urged to produce more products while generating the same or fewer greenhouse emissions. Critics say this plan masks the true levels of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, because it allows the administration to report reductions in "greenhouse gas intensity" when in reality the United States is increasing its total emissions year after year. The Bush administration also opposed the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2005—a bill introduced by Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman to limit the total greenhouse gases emitted by U.S. electricity generation, transportation, industrial, and commercial sectors to the amounts emitted in 2000. And the Bush administration resisted efforts to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act and to strengthen vehicle mileage standards. Finally, administration representatives in 2007 blocked progress on negotiating a global treaty with mandatory caps on emissions, instead pushing for separate talks to discuss voluntary emission cutbacks. Elections in November 2008 will produce a new American president, but until then no one knows what future course the U.S. government will take.

Addressing global warming, therefore, will require not only public awareness, but also tremendous political will. Yet according to many commentators and experts, the effort is both necessary and worthwhile because it will give humankind a great cause—quite literally, a chance to save the world. As Al Gore argued in a 2007 New York Times article:

The future of all human civilization . . . is hanging in the balance. . . . The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge.2

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Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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