Just the facts? On global warming, we need more

Copyright 1998 Newsday
October 27, 1998

New York's senior senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, likes to say that we are all entitled to our own opinion, but not to our own facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to the debate over global warming there's little agreement as to what the facts are.

Here's one set of facts: Global temperatures during the first five months of 1998 were the warmest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And that came in the wake of 1997, which was the warmest year ever. Recently, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported that a melting glacier could lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, causing global sea levels to rise as much as 20 feet.

But here's another set of facts: Patrick J. Michaels, a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists and a fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, says that the scientific models of climate change have been "simply wrong." Another Cato scholar, Thomas Gale More, says that global warming has many causes, including factors far beyond human control, such as natural weather cycles and solar flares.

But most scientists believe that one of the chief causes for the warming trend are man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping industrial gases. Last year, Vice President Al Gore traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to sign an accord that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from the leading industrial nations. We remain skeptical of the treaty. But the weight of scientific evidence that suggests that we are changing our world, in profound and perhaps dangerous ways, is getting heavier.

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