For the past two centuries, at an accelerating rate, the basic composition of the Earth’s atmosphere has been materially altered by the fossil-fuel effluvia of machine culture. Human-induced warming of the Earth’s climate is emerging as one of the major scientific, social, and economic issues of the twenty-first century, as the effects of climate change become evident in everyday life in locations as varied as small island nations of the Pacific Ocean and the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
“The risks of global warming are real, palpable, the effects are accumulating daily, and the costs of correcting the trend rise with each day’s delay,” warns Dr. George M. Woodwell, Director of the Woods Hole Research Center (Eco Bridge N.d.). Dean Edwin Abrahamson, a early leader in the field, comments: “Fossil fuel burning, deforestation, and the release of industrial chemicals are rapidly heating the earth to temperatures not experienced in human memory. Limiting global heating and climatic change is the central environmental challenge of our time” (Abrahamson 1989, xi).
Evidence has been accumulating that sustained, human-induced warming of the Earth’s lower troposphere has been in progress since about 1980, accelerating during the 1990s. During 1997 and 1998, the global temperature set records for 15 consecutive months; July of 1998 averaged 0.6 of a degree F. higher than July of 1997, an enormous increase if maintained year to year. The year 1998 was the warmest of the millennium, topping 1997 by a quarter of a degree F. (Christianson 1999, 275).
Alarm bells have been ringing regarding global warming in the scientific community for the better part of two decades. A statement issued in Toronto during June, 1988, representing the views of more than 300 policymakers and scientists from 46 countries, the United Nations, and other international organizations warned