Is Human Activity a Substantial Cause of Global Climate Change? New ProCon.org Website Shows Latest Pro and Con Research in Climate Change Debate

Jun 15, 2010, 13:14 ET from ProCon.org

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- ProCon.org's 34th and newest website, http://climatechange.procon.org, explores the debate over whether human actions or natural events are primarily responsible for global climate changes. The website helps to stimulate critical thinking on global climate change by presenting the best pros, cons, and facts so people can formulate their own informed perspectives on this complex and important issue.

Natural occurrences, such as changes in the sun's radiation and ocean current shifts, as well as human activities, including burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are reportedly contributing to climate change. Over the 20th century global temperatures have risen between 1 degree F and 1.4 degrees F. This rise has taken place concurrently with a rise in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, loss of sea ice, glacier retreat, sea level rise, more intense heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and more droughts.

Several human activities release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (NO2), into the atmosphere. As of Apr. 2010, CO2 levels were 389 parts per million (ppm) - reportedly higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years when levels fluctuated between 180 and 300 ppm.

Although there was a period of cooling from 1940 to 1970, and uncertainty exists in computer climate models, many researchers think the earth will continue to warm by 3 - 10 degrees F over the 21st century.

Predictions about how climate changes will affect civilization range from an Oct. 2003 Department of Defense report detailing catastrophic weather events and a "significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth's environment," to a Fall 2007 Oregon Institute of Science and Health report detailing "an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals."

Those who believe humans are causing substantial climate change, including the US National Academies of Science, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), state that greenhouse gas levels rise mainly from human activities. They argue these increases are amplified by natural feedback loops, leading to significant global warming and climate change that will detrimentally effect human civilization, causing flooding, water shortages, hotter summers and colder winters, and decreased crop harvests.

Those who believe humans are not substantially contributing to climate change, including the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, argue that the amount of human-generated greenhouse gas increases are too small to substantially change the climate. They state that the earth's forests and oceans are capable of absorbing these small increases, and that 20th century warming has been the result of natural processes including fluctuations in the sun's heat and ocean currents.

Did You Know?

* As of 2010, the US had 4.5% of world's population but was responsible for about 28% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

* From 1998-2009, the US government appropriated $99 billion for work related to climate change. $35.7 billion (36%) of that total came in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

* A 2003 study by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics showed temperatures from 1000-1100 AD (before fossil fuel use) that are comparable to those from 1900-1990.

For more information about Climate Change ProCon.org, visit http://climatechange.procon.org

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