A tipping point on global warming?

News & Politics

For many, many weeks I've started and then stopped writing a blog post just like this. Something keyed off the latest news that last year was the hottest on record (or equally troubling, that the top five warmest years since 1890 occured in the last seven years), or the global increase in devastating hurricanes and cyclones, or that we may not be able to reverse rising sea levels, or that the next century will likely bring widespread wars over scarce resources.

But I always hesitated to post these stories. Partly it's because of my long-held belief that at this point in time, climate change is as much an article of faith as it is a scientific reality. If you accept the fact of climate change, you already know about these details. If you refuse to believe that humans are the cause of rapid (and possibly irreversible) global warming, then your head is buried so far deep in the sand that no number of factoids is going to change your mind.

So I'm pleased to say that, as with so many of the most pressing problems facing the country and the world, most Americans are in agreement, and it's a small minority of exceedingly vocal deniers who are serving as roadblocks to progress.

The cover story in this week's Time Magazine paints a dire picture of our global reality, but at the same time a new poll offers some profound encouragement. Jeffrey Kluger writes:

Even as nature crosses its tipping points, the public seems to have reached its own. For years, popular skepticism about climatological science stood in the way of addressing the problem, but the naysayers--many of whom were on the payroll of energy companies--have become an increasingly marginalized breed. In a new TIME/ ABC News/ Stanford University poll, 85 percent of respondents agree that global warming probably is happening. Moreover, most respondents say they want some action taken. Of those polled, 87 percent believe the government should either encourage or require lowering of power-plant emissions, and 85 percent think something should be done to get cars to use less gasoline.
This is the moment that I've been waiting for, some acknowledgement that it is a vocal minority that gives such out-of-proportion weight to the argument that this dire situation is nothing more than the Earth's natural climatic cycle. But with the good news often comes the bad. While we may have reached some kind of momentum for humankind, or at least for Americans (long the global laggards on this issue), but the planet is also revving up its own tipping point: Kluger points out the beginning of two very worrisome feedback loops at the Earth's poles show we may have indeed reached a point of no return on global warming:

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