Chuck Hallam: Global warming, fact or theory? - Quad-Cities Online: Employment

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Chuck Hallam: Global warming, fact or theory?

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Posted: Sunday, August 16, 1998 1:00 am | Updated: 2:35 pm, Mon Apr 21, 2014.

John Ruskin, a 19th Century English social philosopher, obviously knew more about humanity's injustices than he did about the weather.

Otherwise, it is unlikely he would have left for posterity his curious opinion that ``there is no such thing as bad weather, only different forms of good weather.''

He surely never experienced a year like this one, with searing heat and crop-withering droughts in many parts of the world, while record floods and tidal waves devastated other areas of the earth's surface.

Vice President Al Gore last week declared no one ever saw a year like this before. The 1998 monthly average world temperature has been the hottest on record in each of the first seven months of the year.

Many climatologists blame the recurring phenomenon El Nino for this year's heat wave and other weather-related disasters.

The vice president is among those who probe scientific data for evidence of a far more sinister specter called global warming, caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide and other ``greenhouse gases'' spewed into the atmosphere by human activities.

If the world really is at risk of being overcome by the ``greenhouse effect'' of pollutants trapped under a canopy we have created in outer space, it would be nice to know it now. We don't know because, in spite of this year's temperature records, meteorological data on the subject is so inconclusive that even the earth's best climatologists disagree on the matter.

The data Mr. Gore announced last week could be significant, but it will take more than seven consecutive months of above normal thermometer readings to warrant the kind of panic some dedicated environmentalists would like to promote.

As so often happens, delegates from 150 countries gathered last December in Kyoto, Japan -- probably with good but perhaps misguided intentions -- and came up with a one-sided solution that puts the blame and responsibility for solving a problem no one can prove exists squarely on the shoulders of industrialized nations, especially the U.S.

Before the conference ended, Vice President Gore signed a formal document pledging this country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. Congress will be asked to ratify the Kyoto Agreement next year.

Other industrialized nations also agreed to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide gases, but so-called ``emerging nations'' like China, India and Mexico -- three of our most active export competitors -- are exempt from sharing in the cost of atmospheric clean-up.

At a time when a level playing field is so important to U.S. interests, it is hard to believe the U.S. Senate will agree to make access to world markets more inaccessible to this country's economic interests. But the debate will give Mr. Gore and those with similar environmental agendas a chance to scare anyone unwilling to wait until all theories on the subject are replaced by facts.

For one thing, the U.S. cannot afford to help underwrite the cost of compliance with the ``agreement'' unless all nations, great and small, share the economic burden it bears.

And costly it will be.

According to an analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the increase in fuel costs from the proposed treaty would result in at least a 24 percent loss in net farm income.

In addition, a study by an independent task force shows Illinois farmers would need to cut their carbon dioxide emission levels, mostly caused by animal waste and fertilizer use, by 4 percent.

The stakes for consumers, agriculture and industry are high and should be based on logic instead of emotions.

If global warming is an immediate problem, as Mr. Gore believes, all the world will benefit equally by its solution, and all nations, including those still developing economically, should share the financial pain.

Charles Hallam is a veteran farm writer living in Monmouth.

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