What global-warming skeptics can offer to climate-change debate
Thank you for the excellent Dec. 8 article, "Global warming? A few skeptics still ask why." It is surprising that almost everyone believes the climate is warming with resulting dire effects. It is well to have some skeptics because it is almost impossible to separate the natural variations in climate from those caused by the consistent upward trend in CO2 measurements, although this has been tried with climate modeling.
What bothers me most is that the effect of water vapor (H2O), the most important and variable greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, has not been considered in the climate modeling, although I believe efforts have been made to include cloud cover.
We have much more data on H2O and cloud cover than CO2, and the meteorologist regularly uses these measurements, with air mass changes, to predict daily maximum and minimum temperatures. When you do not include all suspected variables affecting climate change, the results may be misleading.
If the warming climate, whatever the cause, is accompanied by drier weather, hence lower water vapor and cloud cover, the lower H2O could offset the CO2 warming effect. Also, since cloud height and cover are currently measured electronically only up to about 12,000 feet, we probably do not have measurements of the higher cirrus clouds and airplane condensation trails that are as accurate as previously recorded by human observers.
Robert F. Dale
Professor emeritus, Agricultural Climatology, Purdue University
West Lafayette, Ind.
Regarding the Dec. 8 article about global warming skeptics: Rather than debating whether or not climate-change models are predictive, it seems more vital to consider the consequences of being wrong.
If the skeptics are right and assessments of climate-change models are wrong, the consequences seem to be unnecessary economic hardship.
If the skeptics are wrong, the consequences seem to be extensive population displacement, loss of assets, and political unrest.
Debate should focus on these consequences and ways to mitigate them.
Regarding the Dec. 8 article, "Why Germany balks at EU smoking bans": I am a German, and I used to smoke 60 cigarettes without filter every day. I stopped 31 years ago, partly thanks to common sense. But I must add this in defense of the German medical profession: I probably would not have given up smoking had not every one of my physicians informed me with utter Germanic bluntness of the effects of a tobacco addiction. I dare not cast any doubt on the article's report of the tobacco industry's scandalous influence among scientists and clinicians in Germany, but this does not correspond to my personal and quite extensive experience with German clinicians to whose relentless browbeating I believe I owe my life.
There is another possible explanation for the irrational reluctance of many Germans to give up smoking: Otto von Bismarck, Germany's "Iron Chancellor," is reputed to have said that if the world came to an end, "I'd move to Mecklenburg" (now a rural state in Germany's northeast). Mr. Bismarck explained, "[B]ecause everything happens there 50 years later." As I consider my fellow countrymen's passion for tobacco, I have long concluded that my homeland is just one big Mecklenburg.
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