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September 29, 2013

Humans are almost certainly to blame for global warming

Humans are almost certainly to blame for global warming.

That’s the conclusion reached by scientists in various fields who gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, last week as part of a United Nations program on global warming.

Technically, the researchers said they are 95 percent certain that global warming is the result of human activity. So that leaves a little wiggle room for skeptics.

However, this 95 percent certainty is about the same as the strength of evidence linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer. So people who scoff at global warming and human connections aren’t exactly on the most solid of scientific footing.

Actually, this message from the scientific community is nothing new, albeit a bit more definitive. For years now, the ties between human actions — particularly the burning of fossil fuels — and global warming have been well discussed.

And any rational arguments against signs of a warming planet are melting faster than polar ice caps. The evidence of planetary warming cannot be denied by any reasonable person.

But when this reality is tied to human actions, problems arise. Mainly, what can — or should — be done to reverse this trend? And while the scientific community solidly supports global warming data, predictions on future scenarios and the consequences of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are much more speculative.

That’s because it’s relatively easy to look at historical data and map changes in temperatures. Calculating those changes into the future, where multiple variables come into play, is far more difficult.

Efforts to address global warming through a reduction in greenhouse gases pose an assortment of challenges. Critics of the concept decry changes in lifestyles or harmful economic impacts that could result.

There is also the fact that a single nation’s actions on global warming fail to address greenhouse gas production elsewhere. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are often attacked on the grounds that developing nations such as China and India are contributing even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than this country.

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