Not Cool

“No sweat,” this well-groomed model must be thinking, “I’m used to working under hot lights.” For the rest of us, however, things aren’t looking too cool. Despite the oil, gas, and coal industries’ “Tobacco Institute Strategy” of pretending there’s great scientific uncertainty, almost all climate scientists are convinced that industrial carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other greenhouse gases are trapping ever greater amounts of heat in our atmosphere.

In just the past hundred years of industrialization, the CO2 content of our atmosphere has climbed by more than a third, so that today there’s more CO2 in our air than at any time in the past 160,000 years. Partly as a result, average world temperatures have risen about 1 degree Fahrenheit in this century, and are projected to rise another 2 to 6 degrees in the next century. The geological record suggests that changes like these can have dramatic impacts on rainfall, storm size and duration, glaciers, droughts, the rising sea level, the spread of tropical diseases, and the survival of threatened species. Already the last 15 years have been the warmest of the past 200 years, and the 4 hottest years on record all occurred in the 1990s. The 1980s were the hottest decade on record — and the 1990s are well on the way to breaking that record.