Warming up to common sense | SummitDaily.com

Warming up to common sense

The Summit Daily News recently published two opinions on the subject of global warming. Both could be characterized as extreme points of view, albeit from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

The first, “The global warming sham” (April 28), would have us believe global warming is political propaganda, and anyone who believes it is a danger is a radical.

The second, “Pathological ecological denial,” (May 3), suggested America’s reluctance to take definitive action on global warming has something to do with a deficiency in our national psyche. Time out for a little common sense.

The fact is, there are far more people on this planet than ever before. World population has more than doubled in the last 50 years. We have far more cars and more power plants. The documented result is a marked increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

According to “The global warming sham” piece, the measured increase has been almost 40 percent in the last 50 years alone.

Most reputable scientists believe the extraordinary increase in carbon dioxide traps more heat, causing an increase in world temperatures over and above any natural variations. The dramatic melting of glaciers and ice packs provides strong evidence this is happening. Nevertheless, it may be impossible to prove whether global warming is a fact until it’s too late.

What’s so bad about higher temperatures? It is believed that expanded water volume because of heating will cause ocean levels to rise and flood coastal areas along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

According to many experts, higher temperatures will cause soils in the Midwest to dry out more quickly and cut agricultural productivity.

In the American West, higher temperatures will result in reduced snowpack because of quicker melting, causing severe water shortages.

Should we panic? No. Do we need to do something. Yes! If global warming is true, it could do huge harm to our national economy and to our quality of life. A middle-of-the-road, common-sense approach is the key.

We are a great nation, capable of solving big problems. The space race of the 1960s and 1970s led us to be first on the moon, but perhaps more importantly, our space program stimulated the economy and innovations with universal application.

Similarly, money spent to increase industrial efficiency and improve fuel economy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will undoubtedly benefit our gross national product and result in any number of technological advances. It could jump-start our economy.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that we have made global warming a political issue – something to be for or against.

This politicizing of what should be a scientific question has been detrimental. In the past, American business interests have generally opposed international efforts to deal with the problem – such as the Kyoto Protocol – fearing they would increase the cost of doing business or give an unfair advantage to manufacturers in Third World countries.

This is a big mistake. A leveling-off or decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in the industrialized nations will, in fact, accelerate the development of improved technologies.

As has been shown with the implementation of health and safety standards, the result is a cleaner, more efficient industrial process, which uses fewer resources and costs less.

Safety and fuel efficiency improvements in the auto industry are a good example. Cars, trucks and SUVs are now safer, better-built, more fuel-efficient and relatively cheaper, in large part, as a result of higher standards.

Many forward-thinking business leaders are are pushing for action. But not everybody wants to move forward. There are those who prefer to drag their feet in hopes of political gain.

This short-sighted approach will, in the long run, harm our competitive position in the world. It’s only a matter of time before countries in Europe and Asia develop new technologies to deal with global warming.

Here’s where the common sense comes in: What happens if global warming turns out to be not such a big problem? Then we end up with better cars, more efficient power plants, cleaner air and a more vibrant economy – not such a bad outcome.

If the scientists are right and we do nothing, we end up with diminished quality of life.

The time for timidity has passed. Now is the time to act. Let’s stop with the words and start with the science.

Howard Hallman is an engineer who lives in Silverthorne. He also sits on the Silverthorne Town Council.

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