Global Warming Issues

Knowing Our Environment

Global Warming Issues - Getting More Important

Despite the fact that everyone understands the basics of global warming, there are actually more than a few global warming issues that are hindering the swift resolution of policy and political differences at the negotiation tables of most climate change conferences. If it were so simple, we would have had a coherent strategy towards addressing global warming concerns by now. Instead, we’re stuck with temporary agreements to “lessen” the threat of global warming as nations and science organizations alike scramble back to the drawing board for a more creative solution.

Of the many global warming issues, the most important is the central scientific question surrounding the global warming debate.

What every reputable scientist that studies global warming and its causes is saying is that currently, there are no accepted theories to conclusively explain its causes or predict what’s going to happen next. What science currently has is a body of circumstantial evidence that “suggests” global warming is man-made. The short story goes that right about the time carbon dioxide emissions went up as we burned more fossil fuels, the earth’s surface temperature started to go up too. Scientists can demonstrate that carbon dioxide, in the lab, is a greenhouse gas which means it absorbs heat instead of reflecting it. That absorption is “probably” what’s causing the heating at the earth’s surface as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorbs more heat from the sun.

All other global warming issues, most notably the political variety, begin and end with that simple, short story. Global warming supporters argue that the evidence is conclusive enough to demand immediate action; global warming detractors, on the other hand, counter that we cannot pin our legal actions with massive economic consequences to a scientific notion that is less than sure. Imagine what countries need to spend to curb carbon dioxide emissions? Overhauling a society that has been founded on fossil fuels is no mean joke and corporations and governments are not willing to spend all that money on something less than a definite certainty. This is the first of many global warming issues that explains why there’s no sense of urgency in the way governments are addressing the global warming crisis.

The second is a more an issue of execution. Countries cannot simply fend for themselves when reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Third-world countries don’t have the resources to fund research into renewable energies. These countries likewise cannot calmly shutdown industries with high carbon dioxide emissions because that will kill the livelihood and income source for many citizens. The biggest of the global warming issues pertaining to implementation is answering how third world countries can be made to abide by strict emission limits if they obviously cannot do it.

The world’s current answer to all these global warming issues is the Copenhagen Treaty ratified by almost all countries of the world in 2010 as an extension of the now expired Kyoto Protocol signed in 2000. Copenhagen stipulates that emission limits for each country will be imposed based on the emission limits from 20 years ago (1990). Countries will need to match this emission standard by 2015. To get there, a gradual emission reduction scheme is employed with governments holding industries and companies operating within the country to abide by a rationed or allocated emission limit. The sum of these individual limits for corporations equal the total allowed emission for the country. Failure to do this can lead to fines, even mandatory closure. As a workaround, companies can opt to buy “carbon credits” from UN-regulated markets to justify a higher emission value. Simple put, a carbon credit is a permit to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

At best, Copenhagen is a stop-gap policy that raise more global warming issues than it does answers. Will matching 1990 emission levels be adequate to stop global warming increase? How do member countries divide the money raised from carbon trading and levied penalties? Is there a real scientific breakthrough out there that will allow us to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels?

The questions await answers by some of the brightest minds in science and politics. For now, the best that we can do is wait and work on our own small contributions to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It can only be hoped that we find the right answers before it is too late.