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Francis P. Gasparro: Global warming happening, whether you believe it or not Global warming happening, whether you believe it or not

January 31, 2019

Take a look at my signature line below and you might be surprised that a PhD chemist is saying that he does not believe in global warming — let me tell you why! I don’t “believe” in global warming because I “know” that it is happening. This is supported by years and years of worldwide monitoring of global temperatures. Recently it was reported that 2018 was the fourth-hottest average temperature ever recorded for the Earth and that most of the hottest years have occurred in this century. But not only are we seeing higher average temperatures, we are also experiencing more intense storms, raging forest fires as well as really weird swings in the weather. Twice in January, we had a near zero-degree day followed by 50 degrees a couple of days later. This is not normal for winter in Connecticut.

Science (from the Latin “to know”) is not based on belief (derived from German for “faith”). Science is based on a systematic cycle of making observations and verifying their accuracy. Yet there is a belief component in global warming — and that is related to its cause. It is fair to debate the cause and the extent to which human activity is involved. But that debate is pointless as it is irrelevant to the essential question — what are we going to do about the coming impact of global warming — rising sea levels which surely will impact the 60 percent of people who live near coasts all around the world? Some may think that won’t happen for years and I won’t be around — so, who cares? But sea levels are already rising — one example is Miami where streets are routinely flooded during normal high tides. During the two and a half years I have lived in Branford, Limewood Avenue in Indian Neck is often covered in sandy silt as Long Island Sound water routinely sloshes over the road — just two years ago this rarely occurred.

Years of science has shown that the culprit in global warming is the ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide gas levels in our atmosphere. Clearly, we cannot reverse the Industrial Revolution that led to the increased burning of fossil fuels — first wood, then coal and now mostly natural gas and oil. This had a huge impact on CO2 levels which stood near 0.02 percent in the late 18th century but now is just over 0.04 percent. While this is a small number that does not minimize its impact — but it also gives us some hope. Let me explain. Because 0.04 percent is a small number, humans can impact its inexorable rise by changing our habits now. And these need not be radical as commonly available 21st technologies are available — among these are solar power, windmills and electric cars. There are studies that show the adoption of these can lead to a slowing of global warning and the concomitant rising sea levels.

I could go on but let me end with two thoughts. First, for eons Earth’s ice has been trapped primarily at or near its poles as a floating ice sheet in the Arctic, land-based ice on Greenland and the huge fields of ice on the Antarctic continent. The relentless increase in carbon dioxide gas must be slowed to decrease the climbing temperature of our planet. Second, science is a powerful human tool that humans must continue to evolve to use to save humans from a looming disaster.

Francis P. Gasparro, Ph.D., lives in Branford.

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