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You see it every day—cars belching and spewing clouds of foul smoke as soon as they hit the gas pedal. Most cars don’t have such a large quantity of smoke, but when an engine burns gas and oil, the by-product is undeniable.

However, there’s also the sun to be taken into consideration, a giant star that can heat things up very well on its own. So how can we know, especially in a politically charged topic like global warming, what mankind’s real impact is on global warming, the ozone layer, and worldwide weather patterns?

The truth is that there is no absolute truth—science is necessarily based on theories, and theories are by definition educated guesses. Believe it or not, that should bring you some level of comfort. Here’s why.

Global Warming Predictions Revised Down in 2013

A study by the Met Office, as reported in several news outlets, shows that the Earth’s temperature has not changed significantly since 1998—now fifteen years ago. That does not mean that humans should be unabated in their use of energy forms nor that humans don’t have an impact on environment or global warming; one may infer, however, that the earth has been spinning madly on for ages, and it will likely outlive us.

The good news is threefold:

  1. 1. We are successful in our attempts to be better stewards over the resources we have available to us
  2. 2. The earth will continue its cycle and heal itself from any scars humans have inflicted on it
  3. 3. Scientists just had it wrong

Doom-crying lobbyists and smoke-belching truck drivers are two sides of the same coin, and the advice to both is the same: Give a little. It’s not worth the stress, and things clearly aren’t what you think they are.

How Much Has the Earth Warmed Up?

The earth has warmed up in the last 100 years—but truth be told, the direct cause of that warmth is a matter that is “hotly” debated. The peer-reviewed article titled America’s Climate Choices (2010) makes the following claim: “The average temperature of the Earth’s surface increased by about 1.4 °F (0.8 °C) over the past 100 years, with about 1.0 °F (0.6 °C) of this warming occurring over just the past three decades.”

Cars have not been really been around for 100 years, though factories and trains have been plugging along in certain countries for about 150 years. So it is difficult to attribute 100% of the trend to motor transportation—except that 75% of the increased heat has occurred since 1980. Coupled with the research released in 2013 by the Met Office, which states that no significant change has occurred since 1998, we are to understand that 75% of climate change in the last 18% of the century taken into account.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the matter of global warming was so profusely discussed and legislated in the Clinton administration when the climate was at its peak.

Does 1.4°F Really Matter After All?

The Met Office’s latest research that nothing has changed significantly in the last fifteen years belies some of the arguments of impending global disaster related to increased heat. On the one hand, no—a summer day that has gone from 94 degrees to 95.4 degrees does not make a significant difference.

On the other hand, however, we have to examine where the warming is occurring and what the impact truly is. A winter day, for example, that used to be 31 degrees and is now 32.4 degrees can theoretically mean less snowfall which then means lower water levels in the summer, which then leads to lower crop production. But the temperatures are changing most near the North and South Poles, which is causing ice caps to recede. While it is laughably improbable that the ice caps will entirely melt and somehow
flood our lands, there are certain ramifications on sea migratory patterns that could change fishing industries, shipping industries, and more.

So…What Should I Do?

If you are concerned about the environment and wouldn’t mind putting off less CO2 emissions, buy a fuel-efficient vehicle. If you are less concerned about a 1.4-degree increase in temperature over the last 100 years, buy a fuel-efficient car, anyway—you’ll save a lot of money on gas, and people won’t have to breathe quite as much smog.