Humans are responsible for global warming. Period. Many people still refuse to accept this, but disturbing new evidence from a recent study of rising ocean temperatures is so compelling it should end all controversy about the causes of global climate change.

A team of scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif., examined more than seven million observations of temperature, salinity and other variables in the world’s oceans, collected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and compared the patterns with those that are predicted by computer models of various potential causes of climate change.

It found that natural variation in the Earth’s climate, or changes in solar activity or volcanic eruptions, which have been suggested as alternative explanations for rising temperatures, could not explain the data collected in the real world. Models based on man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, however, matched the observations almost precisely.

Two years ago, “The Day After Tomorrow” was a summer movie blockbuster. The film’s premise was sudden, violent climate shift caused by global warming, taking place nearly overnight, which kicked Earth into a new Ice Age. A little over two hours of popcorn-munching action and special effects, “The Day After Tomorrow” wowed audiences with its scenes of disintegrating glaciers, aircraft freezing in flight, and giant hurricane-like storms that sheathed most of the planet in snow and ice.

In the cold light of actuality, the indicators of global warming are far less flashy than movie special effects, but infinitely more alarming … because they’re occurring right now, in real life.

A vast expanse of western Siberia is undergoing an unprecedented thaw. Researchers who visited the region in 2005 found that an area spanning over 600,000 square miles has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago.

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic last summer has convinced experts that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate cannot recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

Icy Greenland is turning green. The country’s ice sheet is melting rapidly. In some places, glacial levels have been falling by nearly 30 feet a year.

Warmer oceans fuel hurricanes, and the world’s oceans are being heated by an unceasing flow of greenhouse gas emissions into our planet’s atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil produces these gases, which trap the sun’s heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Deforestation contributes to the effect.

The U.S. government scorned the rest of the world when it rejected the Kyoto Protocol and refused to commit this country to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, although the United States produces one quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution.

Its alternative to Kyoto is voluntary programs for polluters to clean up their act. The programs sport cheerful names like “Healthy Forests” and “Clear Skies.” The result? Emissions from the U.S. have grown at the rate of 1.5 percent a year.

Our government believes the Kyoto agreement’s goals are “unrealistic” and would damage the U.S. economy. Since that time the U.S. economy has indeed been damaged — but by Katrina’s and Rita’s floods and winds, not pollution controls. Meanwhile, Kyoto’s goals have proven to be realistic; 15 European Union nations have succeeded in collectively cutting their emissions to 2.9 percent below 1990 levels.

The Bush administration has consistently treated global warming, which it euphemistically refers to as “climate change,” as an unproven theory, in need of more research. Fringe scientists promoted by right-wing think tanks have replaced real scientists in formulating government policy. They provide cover for the energy industries’ drive for profits. What’s next? Weather forecasts based on intelligent design?

When those with their hands on the levers of power choose profits over science, it’s a dangerous world indeed.

It was only a few years ago that public discussion of global warming became both prominent and strongly polarized. One group decided right away that scientists must be right and their most dire predictions taken seriously. The other group decided that most scientists were wrong, speaking from weak foundations and politically motivated.

But most people quietly adopted a more thoughtful position in the middle, recognizing the power of scientific claims while also adopting a healthy skepticism for claims that are as yet unproven.

There is now no reasonable doubt that atmospheric pollution is causing global warming, and this warming is strong enough to have serious consequences in the next century.

The White House and Congress ignore it, but global warming is taking place; a weapon of mass destruction such as modern civilization has never seen. This peril grows more dangerous each year, so where is our response?

Don Zeigler is an advertising graphic artist with the Daily Telegraph and a freelance writer.

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