Global warming cannot be edited away

The resourceful Bush administration has found a way to get rid of global warming: Edit it out of reports and act like the problem doesn’t exist.

In a report written by the Environmental Protection Agency on the general state of the environment, this practice was more apparent than it probably should have been. The EPA claimed, in various passages of the report, that global warming is a real-life problem that should be addressed. The Bush administration simply edited these paragraphs, or cut sentences like “climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment” entirely from the report.

The report was initially commissioned in 2001 and was intended to be a comprehensive review of environmental problems, as well as an assessment of the knowledge, or lack there of, about these problems.

By editing the report, it has been rendered useless, as it no longer represents the entire body of knowledge.

What is even more troubling is that this practice would have gone unnoticed if EPA administrator Christie Whitman had not leaked the drafts of the sections the White House requested to be changed to The New York Times. Two agency officials later confirmed the authenticity on condition of anonymity.

Whitman will step down from her position as EPA administrator Friday, ending a long conflict-laden relationship she has had with the Bush administration. She clearly did not have anything to lose, as her tenure at the EPA was about to come to an end. This poses the question of whether or not she would have spoken out were she not about to step down and how many reports and papers have been altered without the public finding out.

Even if this report is the only one that has been altered, it is inexcusable because of its importance. Climate change is a problem that has been scientifically documented and is quite real. The United States government, representing the country emitting the most carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases worldwide, has to accept this problem and deal with it.

It appears, however, the main fear of the government is that such agreements as the Kyoto Protocol, (signed by all major countries, except the United States.) would only hamper an already weakened economy, which is why it chose to ignore the problem.

The possible ramifications of a global climate change of only a few degrees, however, would be so catastrophic that the U.S. government must deal with the problem sooner rather than later.

60 percent of the Earth’s population live within 60 miles of coastlines, which makes the projected sea level rise of up to a meter problematic, to say the least.

Naturally, this will also affect Florida, as the mean elevation of the state is only 100 feet. With many cities around the state close to the coastline and with elevations of only a few feet, a rise in sea level, no matter how small, could prove harmful.

Already, small rises in temperature will result in more water vapor in the atmosphere, causing more severe storms and flooding events.

Some scientists believe the system of global currents that distributes heat throughout the world’s oceans could also be affected through a temperature rise of only a few degrees. This so called system of “thermohaline circulation” is what drives currents like the Gulf Stream. Shutting this system down would effectively send most of Europe into an ice age, while areas closer to the equator, such as Florida, would be struck with severe heat waves, hurricanes and floods.

Global warming is a problem that will not disappear by ignoring it. Our government has to realize this and combat it with a more effective method than revising rhetoric.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior in environmental science and is The Oracle opinion editor.