There are two sides to this debate; those that believe that the current episode of global warming is not natural, is being caused by human activities such as the use of fossil fuels and deforestation, and will cause irreparable harm to our planet and way of life if steps are not taken to reduce or eliminate the amount of CO2 that is emitted into our atmosphere versus those who believe that the current episode of global warming is perfectly natural and that there is no or little need to curtail our use of fossil fuels and deforestation.
Some of the main areas of controversy include the following -
- Is the climate changing beyond natural variations in the historical temperature record?
- Is human / industrial activity the cause for the current episode of global warming, and if so, to what extent is it the cause?
- What will be the effect when fossil fuels like oil are depleted and the use of higher polluting coal is increased; will it cause more extreme climate changes?
- How effective are the CO2 emission reduction policies?
- How much climate change will occur in the future?
- What will be the regional effects of changes in the climate?
- What will be the consequences of changes in the climate?
Global warming has been a sustained topic in the European Union for a while now. The idea of human influence on climate has gained wider acceptance in Europe than it has in other places, like the United States.
In the United States, global warming is often a partisan political issue. Republicans believe the concept of human-made global warming is unproven and tend to oppose any action to address the issue. Democrats lend to support actions that they believe will address the issue of human-made global warming and reduce its effects in the future.
Even though it took longer for the issue of human-made global warming to catch on in the United States, it is starting to gain movement and importance. According to a 2006 Taylor Nelson Sofres poll reported by ABC News, 85% of Americans believed that global warming "probably is occurring," an increase from 80% in 1998. However, less than 40% were "very sure" of it occurring. In 1998, 31% of the American public said that global warming was "extremely important" or "very important" to them; in 2006, that number rose to 49%.
However, Dr. David Suzuki, of the David Suzuki Foundation, reported on August 16, 2006 that the general public has a poor understanding of global warming, even though added attention to the issue from different sources, including the Oscar-winning documentary produced by 2000 Presidential candidate Al Gore, "An Inconvenient Truth."
Environmental groups, many governmental reports, and non-US media often claim illegally unanimous agreement in the scientific community. Outside of the scientific community, however, there are questions regarding the proportion of scientists who agree or disagree on whether human-caused warmth actually exists. The opponents' main view is that most scientists either consider global warming as "unproven," dismiss it altogether, or disparage the dangers of consensus science and are adding more clutter and more controversies.
There are different views on some essays that have been written. For instance, a 2004 essay by Naomi Oreskes in the journal "Science" reported a survey of abstracts of peer-reviewed papers in the ISI database that were related to the global climate change. Oreskes stated that of the 928 abstracts she analyzed, "none contradicted" the view of the major scientific organizations that human-made global warming is "compelling."
However, Benny Peiser claimed to find flaws in her work, stating that he had checked the same set of abstracts, along with an additional 200 from the ISI database, and discovered that only around a dozen explicitely endorsed the "consensus." The vast majority of the abstracts did not mention anthropogenic global warming.
However, it was later determined that Peiser searched for opinion pieces and editorial pieces, in addition to "hard science" papers, which were the only papers Oreskes included, so Peiser's analysis was disputed. In a later period for Canada's National Post, Peiser does not even mention that study he conduced earlier, instead just stating that hundreds of papers from the world's leading experts in the field have raised serious reserves and outright rejection of a "scientific consensus on climate change. " Peiser also stated that even though there was an overwhelming majority of climatologists who believed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact, the support is not unanimous.
There are other essays and incidents where the two sides differ on how to interpret different scientific facts and reports. The side that believes that human-made global warming is a legitimate concern insist that there is "consensus" on this issue from the scientific community, whereas those who believe that the issue of human-made global warming is unfounded, claim that there is no "consensus" from the scientific community on this issue. Some of the skeptics will admit to "increased heating" from human activities, while other skeptics claim that the "Urban heat island" effect, where warming is caused by increased heat generated by cities, not by a global temperature rise, is the main cause of our current warming period.
Some researchers even believe that a 1.5 C (2.7 F) increase in average global temperature would increase crop yields and stabilizeize weather, while also believing that a larger warming is inadvertently. However, most researchers believe that the average global warming would be more in the 2-4.5 C (3.6-8.1 F) range, and projects disastrous consequences as a result. The IPCC also believes that an increase of 2-4.5 C (3.6-8.1 F) is likely to occur in the 21st century unless strong mitigation measures are adopted in the very near future.
As you can see, there is much debate over whether human-made global warming is a legitimate issue to be concerned about or not. In the United States especially, the issue of human-made global warming is more of a political issue, with most Republicans believing that it is an unfounded or unproven issue, while Democrats believes that the threat is real and that steps need to be taken to prevent further damage. Both sides have interpreted scientific findings and papers to support their claims as to whether human-made global warming is a legitimate issue to be concerned about or not. As human-made global warming is discussed more and more in the coming years, it's likely that more controversies over this highly-debated issue will continue.