Global warming—complete reality, total fiction, or a collection of isolated events? Ever since then-President Jimmy Carter placed a set of solar panels on the roof of the White House, America has divided into two opposing camps on the matter: those who think greenhouse gases are plunging the Earth toward environmental catastrophe and those who regard it as fear-mongering spread by over-zealous tree-huggers.
George Erickson’s presentation, “A Matter of Degrees: Is Anyone Listening?” at Saturday’s first meeting of the Humanists of Minnesota at the Lake Nokomis Community Center (2401 Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis) tackled the issue from a populist, holistic approach. A retired dentist, author, aviator, adventurer, and former president of the organization, Erickson made no bones about his conviction that global warming is the critical “subject of this century.”
Many antagonists on the issue such as echoflam.com’s Darren Pope and Tony Pann marshal bits and pieces of evidence to support their respective viewpoints, pro and con. Erickson, on the other hand, synthesized the evidence of the opposing sides to conclude that the Earth’s climate grew significantly warmer since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in 1750. Stable for millennia at 280 parts per million, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased to 320 parts per million over the next 200 years and 390 parts per million during the last 50.
Those percentages may not seem like much, but a clear-cut majority of weather experts feel the earth’s atmosphere has reached a “tipping point” in its ability to absorb the sun’s reflected heat. Erickson pointed out that even this small percentage increase has drastic effects on the oceans’ chemistry and their ability to absorb CO2. The carbonic acid this absorption creates affects the krill and phytoplankton populations that form the foundation of the earth’s food chains. More complex animals such as polar bears and humans must roam further and further to sustain their food stores with disastrous consequences upon their physical and emotional well-being.
Erickson’s recommendations to address the problem are equally eclectic and holistic. Along with wind, geothermal heating, and fuel cells, he advocates implementing molten thorium reactors to reduce carbon emissions by the 60% some political entities like the UK and California have vowed to do. As pragmatic as he is holistic, Erickson embraces all viewpoints to defeat what he considers the other “key driver” in this dire climate scenario: overpopulation.
What do you think? Is global warming real? Why or why not?