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  Section: Introduction to Botany » Ecology
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The Global-Warming Controversy

  Plant Ecology
  The Global-Warming Controversy
  Ecological Interrelationships
  Natural Recycling
  Plant Succession

A discussion of ecology and climate naturally leads one to think about global warming. It is purported by some that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing to an alarming level, resulting in a so-called “greenhouse effect,” or interference with radiational cooling leading to an increase in average temperature. Proponents of this contention claim that should the carbon dioxide level continue to rise, dire consequences will result: the polar ice caps will melt, the level of the sea will rise, and the borders of continents will be altered.

If you were to go to the library to read about global warming (a worthy endeavor), you would undoubtedly find a number of articles on the subject. For instance, you might find an article regarding the effect of carbon dioxide levels on a certain species of butterfly or on deep ocean water. But your attention would more likely be more drawn to those articles proclaiming doom: “Global warming will turn the nation’s midsection into a desert”; “Coastal cities will be submerged under the sea.” It is important to note, however, that on your visit to the library you would just as readily find an equal number of articles on global cooling. For example, Dr. Fred Singer, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Virginia, has written on this subject. Among his observations are the following:

A potentially dangerous cooling trend has been under way most of the Earth’s history. There was five or ten times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere a hundred million years ago, and average temperatures were 9 to 18 degrees warmer. The climate optimum occurred about 1100 A.D. Greenland was then green. Labrador was warm enough to grow grapes. There has been a 9 degree rise in temperature since 1880, which probably indicates a “return to normal” following the “Little Ice Age” of 1600 to 1800.
It is not clear that man is responsible for any warming trend. Human
activity accounts for only 5 percent of all carbon dioxide.
Global measurements indicate any rise in temperature occurs mainly at night, mainly in the winter, mainly in the northern hemisphere. If the pattern continues, it will mean a longer growing season, fewer frosts, and no increase in drought.

Instead of melting, the polar ice caps appear to be increasing

At one time, certain “climatologists” were predicting a thirty-foot rise in sea level (from melting ice), an estimate that has since been revised to twelve inches. Interestingly, it may well be that temperature changes cause changes in carbon dioxide levels, rather than the reverse; rising temperatures cause the land and sea to release carbon dioxide. At the least, the subject of global warming is certainly worthy of more thought and inquiry.


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