Global warming isn't normal climate change

February 20, 2010

A recent letter to the editor confused long-term shifts in the Earth's climate with global warming ("Snow does not prove global warming," Readers respond, Feb. 16).

Scientists know the Earth goes through different orbital configurations that bring it closer to or farther from the sun. Those shifts take place over tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of years. Recent climate change, however, has taken place in a relatively short period of time. The sun and other natural factors haven't changed over that time period.

But by burning coal and oil and destroying forests, we have increased the amount of carbon dioxide, the chief heat-trapping gas in our atmosphere, by more than 40 percent. It is no wonder that the past 10 years have been the hottest decade on record globally. While we will still experience cold weather, it will simply occur less often.

The basic science is settled. The question now is: How soon we can transition to cleaner sources of energy? If the Senate follows the House's lead and passes climate legislation this year, we will go a long way toward preventing the worst consequences of climate change. It's a win-win-win for job creation, saving money at the pump and curbing our dependence on oil.

Aaron Huertas, Washington

The writer is press secretary for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com.

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