Letters to the Editor about global warming
A special collection of letters on the global-warming debate.
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Regarding the Monitor series, "Global-warming skeptics: a closer look": Having measured atmospheric transmission at various altitudes, I must raise some facts that conflict with the conclusion that global warming is human-generated.
I would like some answers to the following points: In the 1970s, there was concern about "global cooling." In 1991, a volcano in the Philippines erupted, spewing gases that covered the planet to the extent that the earth cooled by a couple of degrees. One would expect human-caused warming to have prevented this cooling. Some 10,000 years ago the glacial ice sheet that covered the US receded, but there were no automobiles or human activity significant enough to cause global warming. It was part of the natural cycle, which may be continuing today.
Some 30,000 years ago, the earth's temperature was higher than the current values reported. There were no human activities great enough to cause global warming. I do accept the probability that humanity may be a small part of the contribution, but elimination of any amount of human activity will not prevent "global warming" (though it may be a good approach to cleaner air). The climate has so many variables that by using computer programs to predict climate, one can obtain any result one wishes.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
The real possibility of global warming is too dangerous to ignore. I don't see how action taken to curtail greenhouse gases can be a bad thing. Even if global warming turns out to be a normal cycle, so what? Our air would be more breathable and our energy more sustainable as a result of actions taken to reduce global warming. The worst case would be that global warming is real, and we have to deal with the result. The best case would be that we have clean, renewable energy sources. I don't think an "oops, sorry," from [global-warming skeptics] George Taylor or Warren Meyer will really help when New York is underwater, when we can't grow food due to drought, or when violent storms kill thousands every year.
We need to have our focus away from cost. The world will run out of fossil fuels. That is an undeniable fact. It will not matter how much money you have in your pocket if there is no fuel to buy. It's past time to begin serious work on alternative, renewable energy. The longer we wait, the more expensive the solution becomes.
Mankind's history is such a small fraction of geological history that it is almost impossible to make grand conclusions about mankind's ability to irreversibly alter global weather. There are too many other factors – volcanoes, sunspots, and others – that could change things. If the fears of global warming help us alter individual and collective behavior to do a better job of limiting our resource use and damage to the planet, keep up the battle cry.
The bickering over whether scientists are certain about global warming, whether it is caused by human activity, and whether it can be modified by specific action is irrelevant. Public policy is always made with uncertainty. To do nothing is a policy. If we waited for certainty before acting, then all public policy would be to do nothing. We have to act on the probability that we can modify the possible adverse results of the increase in atmospheric carbon given the probable catastrophic results of doing nothing. Moreover, the philosophy of the physical sciences includes the precept that nothing is ever certain. Scientists remain skeptical of all theories and current findings. This does not indicate that the data is weak. It only shows that the scientists remain open-minded about new discoveries.
Theodore S. Arrington