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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, November 13, 2004

New studies deepen global-warming fears

It's true that it remains unproven that global warming is a looming disaster for Spaceship Earth. For scientists, working out what a temperature rise of a few degrees will mean for life on the planet is far from straightforward.

Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, Hawai'i's reefs are sickening and dying. What that ultimately means to us and to our environment is not yet fully understood.

But if the threat turns out to be dire, as many scientists increasingly fear, then to do nothing while waiting for proof may be extreme folly.

Instead, if we take measures to reduce the greenhouse gases that seem to be causing this warming, we will have done comparatively little harm even if global warming turns out to be a quirk of nature.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of new signs that the climate is in trouble is accelerating.

only last month, scientists reported that we may have less time to combat global warming than we realized. Measurements of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, taken from a 12,000-foot observatory on Mauna Loa, suggest atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen sharply and inexplicably in the past two years, hinting at the possibility of runaway global warming.

This week a major scientific study of warming in the Arctic region, detailing glacial melting, thinning sea ice and rising permafrost temperatures, was further cause for worry.

The study found that in the past 50 years, temperatures in Alaska, Western Canada and Siberia rose substantially, and will continue to rise as we burn more fossil fuels.

Pointing to the report as a clear signal that global warming is real, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said the "dire consequences" of warming in the Arctic underscore the need for U.S. cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

President Bush has flatly rejected that approach. He also has rejected the 126-nation Kyoto Accord, and has even refused to negotiate with the accord's signers to make it more acceptable.

Global warming is not the only issue in which Bush's ideology is trumping science, but it may be the most perilous.