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July 3, 2011

Higher temps, drought appear; may be new norm

In the 1980s, scientists began to gather data showing that the protective levels of ozone in the stratosphere, which absorbs much of the harmful UV rays from the sun, was being destroyed by man-made chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons. These compounds are used in refrigerators, air conditioners and have many other applications.

The global alarm — and the science — was so strong that the leaders of the industrialized world signed the Montreal Protocol in 1987 banning some, limiting the use of others and urging development of newer, more ozone friendly compounds. The public accepted the data and health possibilities. When we are out in the sun, many of us use sun block to protect our skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Attempts by lobbyists and others to spread doubt about the science were unsuccessful and Congress and President Reagan approved this legislation quickly.

Today the science is just as strong: Greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide, cause global warming. Carbon dioxide is at the highest level in more than 800,000 years. Ninety-seven percent of actively publishing climate scientists have expressed concern, if not outright alarm, about GHGs that are bringing about climate change. However, many in Congress and the United States do not believe that GHGs are a concern and no actions are being taken to reduce these levels.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued their fourth report, which stated, with greater than 90 percent probability, that both the planet was warming and that human activities were primarily responsible.

The same science and data have convinced all of the major national science bodies on the planet, including our own National Academy of Sciences, that there is cause for alarm.

The IPCC is currently assembling about 1,500 scientists from around the globe to evaluate and integrate new data published since 2007 and will issue a new report in 2013. There are more than 1,000 new peer reviewed research articles for them to consider and many wait for their interpretations and recommendations.

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