Global warming:?Yes, It Is Very Real

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Byline: Bob Doppelt

Global warming is the defining issue of our times. The Pacific Northwest is already experiencing the effects of rising temperatures. Left unchecked, global warming will undermine economic, social and environmental prosperity and security here and abroad.

This is the first in an occasional series of columns about global warming. Because global warming is an event without precedent in human experience, the causes, consequences and solutions can be difficult to grasp. I'll try to explain them and discuss their local implications.

This will not be a science column. However, a buddy I play basketball with - Charlie Warren, the former University of Oregon All-American - is a self-described climate skeptic who constantly peppers me with questions about global warming. I recently bumped into a Springfield City Council member who voiced similar concerns. I thought it therefore made sense to devote this first column to some of the basic questions they and others have.

Skeptics' first question is often, "Is there proof the Earth is warming?"

The answer is yes. Global warming is unequivocal. Instrument measurements around the globe document unprecedented warming, as does direct observation of melting ice sheets and glaciers and rising sea levels. Proxy data such as ice core samples reinforce the empirical information.

Here in the Northwest, average temperatures have risen by 1.5 degrees. Mean average temperatures are expected to rise about 1.9 degrees by the 2020s compared with the 1970-to-1999 average, and by 2.9 degrees by the 2040s.

If skeptics such as Charlie acknowledge that the Earth is warming, their next question often relates to whether humans are the cause. Again, the answer is yes.

Scientists have spent considerable time teasing out natural from human-related "forcings," the term they use to describe the drivers of global warming. The result is that solar variability, volcanic activity and other natural events cannot account for the current warming. Only when the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (up by more than 35 percent since preindustrial times), methane (up 155 percent) and other greenhouse gases are taken into account do climate models reproduce today's warming.

The bottom line is that global warming is indisputably happening, and humans are the primary cause. Ample research shows that scientists who claim otherwise are distorting data to support what is usually an ideological viewpoint. …