Global warming is occurring and just because nearly half the population doesn’t believe it doesn’t change the facts. The planet has been warming at an erratic pace ever since the glaciers began melting 20,000 years ago.

It is hard to believe that so many people refuse to accept this fact. The facts are quickly overshadowed by fighting about what is causing global warming, why we are seeing weather change and the extent of change that might occur based on selected data.

What is happening more these days is that people, including some contrary scientists, government officials and persons fighting any form of government regulation, argue about whether anything needs to be done to curb greenhouse gas production and/or who to blame for it.

Elwynn Taylor, Ph.D., Iowa State University climatologist and agricultural consultant on weather trends, stayed out of the political fighting when presenting the facts about global warming to a large audience at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers a couple weeks ago.

“My first professor in graduate school said the climate is changing. The climate has always changed. The questions in 1966 were how much will the climate change, how fast will the climate change and why is the climate changing. And those are still the questions,” Taylor said.

The largest scientific group of climatologists, physicists and scientific groups backed by historical data and theoretical models are definite about the planet warming, but there are renegade scientists who refuse to go along with the overwhelming majority.

Non-believer scientists of global warming are also the ones who refuse to accept that what humans are doing is negatively impacting the ozone layer and causing weather change. These scientists, that I personally think are pseudo-scientists, definitely get more attention than legitimate scientists.

The U.S. population’s belief that there is global warming has declined during the last five years from a high of 79 percent in July 2006 to a low of 59 percent in October 2010. The specific question asked by the Pew Research Center was: “Is there solid evidence the earth is warming?”

Somewhat interesting was when the Pew Research Center broke the respondents into groups of political connection. For this year’s research, the belief that there is solid evidence of global warming was yes by 38 percent of the Republicans, 79 percent of the Democrats and 56 percent of independents for the composite 59 percent.

To the question, “Do scientists agree the earth is getting warmer because of human activity?” the answer was yes by 59 percent of those surveyed in 2006 and only 44 percent in 2010.

Back in 2006, 61 percent of those surveyed agreed that global warming required immediate government action, but that percentage dipped to 46 percent as of October 2010.

Does any of this controversy really impact agriculture? The simple answer is yes. Carbon taxing plus cap and trade are issues related to agriculture and have been debated in Congress. Such regulations are already in place in Europe.

Earlier this month at an 80-nation United Nations conference on food security, a huge majority of representatives demanded that agriculture be considered when global warming and emission of greenhouse gases are negotiated among nations.

According to the information presented to these country representatives, about 30 percent of carbon emissions come from farming, livestock production and forest destruction. The talks about agriculture did recognize that emissions are not restricted to the most mechanized nations.

Andrew Steer, the World Bank’s special envoy on climate change, was attributed by the Associated Press as saying a climate change action plan agreement at the United Nation’s upcoming climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, is highly unlikely. But Steer said agriculture must be part of any eventual deal even though “climate change negotiators are frequently not familiar with agriculture.”

Agreements among nations including the U.S. would seem to be impossible when so few people in the U.S. actually even believe that global warming and climate change are occurring. And like those international negotiators, the U.S. public has no idea about agriculture’s negative or positive contributions to climate change.

By Richard Keller, AgProfessional editor