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Global warming catches fire in U.S.

by: DAVE GOLDINER    4 April 2006

Americans are waking up to the dangers of global warming, according to a new poll.

The poll shows 71% now believe global warming is real and 59% believe they can do things to help the planet stave off catastrophic warming.

Ironically, many climate change experts think the new awareness won't do anything immediate to stop years of floods, droughts and intense storms caused by global warming.

"We certainly aren't going to stop that 18-wheeler that's rolling down the hill," said John Walsh of the University of Alaska. "In the short term, I'm not sure that anyone can stop it."

Scientists say temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come because the greenhouse gasses that cause global warming linger in the atmosphere for about a century.

Many Americans have long questioned whether global warming is real and President Bush emboldened skeptics by rejecting the Kyoto Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But even if Americans follow through on their stated desire to cut back on driving and stop spewing pollution, average temperatures will almost certainly keep rising.

Some computer models say the world could be 3 to 5 degrees hotter.

That could be enough to melt polar ice caps, cause devastating rises in the world's water levels and permanently destroy glacier-fed ancient water supplies for billions of people.

"The big payoff is going to be for our children," said Tim Barnett of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. "We might be able to slow it down enough to avoid these surprises."

With News Wire Services

It's hot in here

New poll finds:

71% of Americans believe global warming is real.

53% believe warming is caused more by human activity than by normal Earth cycles.

70% think the effects of global warming can be reduced.

59% think their efforts as individuals can make a difference in global warming.