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Opinion: We must pay attention to how greenhouse gases affect climate

When the media reports on global warming, it often mentions the Industrial Revolution and the increased burning of fossil fuels during that period and then goes on to point out that generating electricity currently is the greatest contributor to global warming. 

If they talk long enough, they will get to the fact that transportation, such as driving or flying, contribute to global climate change.

What is ignored is the fact that global warming may have been going on for the past 6,000 years. Seldom is it mentioned that the earth, over the last million years, has gone though several Ice Ages and each of them lasts about 100,000 years, including interglacial periods of about 10,000 years. We are probably in an interglacial period now and civilization developed during this interglacial period.

The Milankovitch cycle explains why ice ages and interglacial periods existed.

Milankovitch cycles involve regular changes in the Earth's tilt on its axis and its orbit around the sun. When the Earth tilts so the northern hemisphere receives less energy, the northern hemisphere becomes cooler. Ice ages begin when temperatures remain at or below freezing. Based on previous cycles the Earth was probably due to go into an ice age about 6,000 years ago.

Prior to the industrial revolution, summers were getting colder in the northern hemisphere. They had been getting colder for at least 6,000 years. That trend was probably reversed because of greenhouse gas emissions thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution when large scale farming began about 5,000 years ago. Increased agricultural emissions such as methane contributed to global warming.

One benefit from adding CO2 and other gases to the atmosphere almost guarantees the Earth will not enter another ice age. Just prior to the Industrial Revolution, the earth was cooling, and burning fossil fuels helped warm the Earth by increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Mankind has benefited from global warming. Unfortunately, man’s impact on the Earth’s climates has reached the stage where it will soon disrupt much of the modern world. Oceans will invade dry land. Saltwater will enter freshwater aquifers where drinking water will become unusable. During the previous ice age, the oceans receded 400 feet, and this interglacial period has refilled the seas.

If oceans can rise 400 feet to today’s levels, they can go higher if glaciers continue to melt.

Why go into this? On Sunday, March 1, there will be a global warming program titled “Drawdown” from 1:30 until 3 p.m. in the central theater at the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center. Drawdown is the point when concentrations of greenhouse gases begin to decline. We need to stop global warming from continuing but realize that in the distant future, mankind may need to add global warming gases to the atmosphere so that another ice age does not occur.

For more information, contact Jennie at 706-878-3300 or email

Jimmy O'Neill


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