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Overheated hype

July 17, 2007|by ANNA BALDASARRE/Pulse Correspondent

Recently, hype about global warming has run rampant. But what is the truth? Are the reported increases in surface temperatures merely part of the Earth's natural cycle of warming and cooling? Or are humans causing the widespread transformation of our world?

To find out, I spoke with Matthys Levy, author of "Why the Wind Blows: A History of Weather and Global Warming."

Global warming is "a real problem, and something is going to need to be done" about it, Levy said. Records show that the average temperature of Earth is rising. Measurements of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have shown an increased amount of these gases, especially of carbon dioxide, within the 20th century.

Carbon dioxide must be responsible for the change in temperature, Levy said.

So how does this affect us in the Hagerstown area?

Levy said, "It's very difficult to make predictions for a specific locality, but what is generally happening is temperatures are moving northward." That is, we can expect that "the average temperature (in Hagerstown) will be more like that (currently) in South Carolina in about 50 years."

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For teens who will be living with this for the rest of our lives, global warming also can provide job opportunities.

"It will result in increased need in certain areas. There will be a change to alternative forms of energy," Levy said. Today's teens might work on a wind farm that produces wind energy, or work for a manufacturing company that produces wind generators. Agriculture also will be important, Levy said. Farms might grow grasses and other plants that absorb carbon dioxide, or they might grow plants that can be made into biofuels, such as ethanol.

"And, of course, inventing an alternative fuel source" is a way to ensure you will not have to worry about Social Security, or the lack thereof, during your retirement, Levy said.

But maybe the main question on your mind is this: What can we do to stop global warming?

The answer: It can't be stopped.

We have to live with the consequences of what has already been done, Levy said. But we can help slow the trend.

"(Teens can help) change the effects of global warming in the latter part of the century," he said.

There are several things that individuals can do to help. One big thing is conserving energy.

"Make sure lights are turned off when they're not being used," Levy said. "Raise the temperature if you live in an air-conditioned environment.

"And when the time comes when you get a car, you should pick the most energy-efficient car you can find, like the Toyota Prius," Levy said.

Also, contact your local lawmakers and encourage the government to take action. Although individual efforts help, they're not enough.

"Large changes are necessary to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (in the atmosphere) by 80 percent," Levy said.

Governments will most likely have to create mandates and impose restrictions on the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, especially by power plants that use coal as fuel. Transportation also needs to be controlled, including using more fuel-efficient vehicles or ones that run on an alternative fuel source.

Levy said he began writing "Why the Wind Blows" because he was interested in weather and how weather affected the early explorers. But as he did his research, he also learned about the modern climate.

"I found changes (in the weather) were taking place that were no longer natural," he said. "Suddenly, man was creating weather changes. Because that's what global warming is all about: men making changes in the weather."

"There's not much time left to turn things around."

What are you going to do?

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