Global warming is quite possibly the single most significant environmental threat we face today. There has already been significant loss of summer ice in the arctic. The island of Tuvalu, in the South Pacific, is being inundated by the sea. Most of the world's glaciers have shrunk dramatically. It is easy for people to remain complacent since most of us are not directly affected by these events. However, as the climate continues to warm, we will likely be faced with global changes that affect us all. Changes in weather patterns could cause devastating storms that destroy our homes, farm land and cities. Rising temperatures will likely stimulate a rise in infectious diseases, particularly mosquito borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Many nations are already struggling to provide safe water for their citizens; global warming will make this more challenging. As the polar ice caps melt and the seas expand from the heat, sea levels will rise, flooding coastal areas and further threatening our homes, agriculture and cities. The polar ice caps help maintain moderate global temperatures by reflecting solar radiation back into the atmosphere. The loss of these natural mirrors would cause the ocean temperatures to rise even more quickly, possibly leading to a runaway greenhouse effect much sooner than many scientists had originally predicted.
So why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? The Bush administration pulled out of the Kyoto Protocols, claiming that they would hurt U.S. business and that there wasn’t any compelling scientific evidence that global warming existed or was a problem. The evidence for global warming is, in fact, overwhelming and the Bush administration has now admitted that it is a real problem. Nevertheless, there is still a small but vocal body of coal and petrochemical industry scientists who are continuing to deny the facts, sow doubt among politicians and the media, and attempt to discredit any research that might possibly undermine their bottom line. This past year saw the emission of more tons of greenhouse gases than any prior year. Rather than trying to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, congress is debating opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.