It seems like we’ve been hearing about it for years, that global warming is coming. And with it will come dramatic changes. The temperatures will rise. The ice caps will melt. Coastal cities will flood, and inland cities will roast from drought and the higher temperatures. But should we really be as worried as Al Gore says we should be, or are some aspects of global warming and climate change being blown out of proportion?
Seemingly, everyone has an opinion when it comes to climate change. Some people emphatically believe climate change is going to eventually make the current weather more severe and extreme. The other category claims climate change will play no role in current weather and we shouldn’t be alarmed. Bryan Busby, chief meteorologist at KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo., says there’s a fine line to walk regarding climate change.
“When people or groups ask me to give lectures on climate change, I try to be as impartial as I can,” Busby said. “Even if you’re talking to a group who strongly believes climate change is influencing weather, it might still be a good idea to show them the other side of the coin.”
One side of that coin is the fact our planet is getting warmer. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the global average temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. This increase in temperature has caused Arctic sea ice to decrease by an average rate of 12 percent per decade while 100 billion tons of land ice on Greenland is lost per year. Dr. Johannes Feddema, a professor of climatology at the University of Kansas, says there’s one main underlying cause to the increase in temperature over the past century.
“The biggest and most noticeable difference between now and the 1800s is the level of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere,” Feddema said. “As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, more and more of the sun’s radiation gets trapped in the atmosphere from the greenhouse effect. That’s what really is causing the temperatures to increase.”
Feddema went on to say carbon dioxide levels have been on the increase ever since the mid-1900s when an all-time record level of carbon dioxide was recorded. This is backed up by NASA data. Around 325-thousand years ago, carbon dioxide levels reached 300 parts per million. That historical record was eclipsed in the mid-1900s and has risen to an all-time high of 395 parts per million today.
With this increase in the carbon dioxide level, a temperature increase is expected; however, climate records show high temperatures have remained fairly consistent throughout recent decades.
“When people think about global warming and the temperature increasing, they think daily high temperatures will increase,” Feddema said. “What we have seen over the past few years is that low temperatures have been getting warmer.”
With the carbon dioxide level, temperatures, and sea level rising, that gives room for people to be concerned. It’s a good idea to be concerned about the planet and where it’s going, but not panicking is the key.
“We’re not going to see anything like in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ happen,” Busby said. “Sure, people should know what’s going on with the planet, but we all need to keep a level head and look over data and facts and not speculate over what could happen.”
For the most part, Feddema agrees, but this could just be a new era in the history of the Earth.
“Our planet goes through many cycles,” Feddema said. “There’s no doubt that humans have played a role in the amount of carbon dioxide that’s in the atmosphere, but this could also be a part of a cycle with higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the air that we humans have just accentuated.”