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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

United Nations may have exaggerated global warming claims

Global warming and climate control are two buzz words that have been on the tips of people’s tongues in recent years. However, there have been recent claims that the United Nations (UN) exaggerated and manipulated data in order to construe global warming as a more serious problem than it truly is. The most commonly known image associated with global warming is the “hockey stick” graph that was published in the UN’s 2001 global warming report and appeared in Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth. The graph has received backlash because it leaves out the medieval warming period. Some scientists project that surface temperatures during this period were actually warmer than today’s climates by 3 degrees (Celsius).

However, there are three problems with this argument.

One, while scientific research certainly shows that surface temperatures in the medieval period were at least as high as today, a certain level of speculation is attached to this. Most of the information about this period is done by estimation and the temperature numbers vary from scientist to scientist, therefore creating challenges in the overall analysis of temperature data.

Two, the medieval warming period was caused by a natural cycle of climatic variations that have occurred since the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. The high temperatures during that time period were caused by the sun. Debunkers of global warming contest that warming today is a result of this, not carbon emissions. But it is widely-accepted that carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are higher today than ever and this cannot be disregarded as playing a role in today’s warming.

Three, the projected high temperatures during the medieval period were only in certain areas, specifically in Europe, Greenland, and Asia. There is little evidence that this warming occurred on a global scale. According to the National Resource Council, most scientists conclude that temperatures in the past 25 years in most, but not all, areas are higher than any other time period since 900 AD.

Critics also debunk the UN’s calculations for embellishing the correlation between CO2 emissions and rising temperatures. However, when conducting climate calculations, climate sensitivity must be considered. This means that a time gap exists of several decades between the release of CO2 and the actual temperature rise that it causes. Without including this, climate sensitivity to CO2 would appear much smaller.

The relationship between CO2 emissions and temperature cannot be denied; the correlation is imminent. Throughout recorded climate history, CO2 levels have been high during warmer interglacial periods and low during cool glacial periods.

All scientists “believe” in the greenhouse effect- it is what prevents our planet from freezing. Scientists also universally accept that increasing greenhouse gases will alter the planet’s climate and that human activities play a major role in this alteration. The debate is how much our global temperature will change, how rapidly it will change, and what the ultimate outcome will be.

The answer to these questions cannot be determined and even “scientific” conclusions are based upon speculation and projections. Many factors determine global temperatures and experts can only estimate what the future of our planet will be.

That is why, as with any presented statistic, global warming data should be taken with a grain of salt; no one can know for certain what the effects will be. Scientists can analyze and hypothesize but they are not prophets who foresee the future.

I do not deny that the UN might have manipulated information in order to stir awareness in people. But I do not think global warming should be discredited as an important issue because of this accusation.

Do I think that the planet will burn up tomorrow and the apocalypse will come as a result of global warming? Probably not. Do I think that the human race needs to change its habits in order insure the well-being of our planet for the future? Without a doubt.

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