Doomsday scenarios make great movies, but rarely does the American public give them much credence. Ask almost any American on Sept., 10, 2001, if a terrorist attack on our soil would occur (let alone topple two iconic skyscrapers in New York City), and most would laugh, despite that previous attacks, including a car bombing of the World Trade Centers, had already occurred.
Such skepticism remains strong about global warming, despite that the evidence is more than sufficient to show it's occurring. Study after study done during the past decade shows the planet's changes in air temperature is rising, the world's oceans are heating up, sea ice is declining, glaciers are melting, sea level is rising, ecosystems across the globe are changing and plant and animal distributions are being altered. The primary cause, scientists almost universally agree, is the buildup of greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in our atmosphere. This buildup is causing average air temperatures to change. And while global warming does mean some places will be colder at some times, the net effect is a warmer Earth.
In addition, human activity is causing global warming, warns the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Our burgeoning population, with its growing industrial and agrarian needs, is both pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and reducing the planet's natural ability to absorb them so air temperatures don't rise. The burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity, power our cars and trucks and other industrial processes sends carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while increasing the number of livestock and landfills raises methane levels, the U.S. Department of Energy reports. The cutting of forests across the globe limits the ability of plants to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
Given this reality, it best serves our community to ask what the implications of global warming are for us. What does less precipitation mean for the coastal redwoods that draw tourists here? What do warmer ocean temperatures mean for the salmon, albacore and crab that our commercial fishing industry relies on? What do rising oceans levels mean for our coastal communities in which large swaths are only a few feet above sea level?
Predicting changes for any specific area is difficult, especially given that scientists don't yet have enough data to know how severe global warming will be. But the evidence is overwhelming: Global warming is real, and will affect us even right here in seemingly remote and isolated Del Norte County.