Feb. 23: Letters to the editor

Letter misleads readers about climate change

Mark Peter spread falsehoods about the topic of human-caused climate change in his recent letter (“Climate change and the facts", 2/17/17).

Take for example his canard that the “ice cap is increasing” at the South Pole. The reality is that, while the coldest regions of Antarctica might gain snowfall from a warmer more moisture-laden atmosphere, the vulnerable, low-elevation West Antarctic Ice sheet – enough ice to yield 16 feet of global sea level rise—has likely now been destabilized by ocean warming.

There is overwhelming consensus among the worlds' scientists that climate change is real and human-caused. That is the conclusion of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the national academies of all other industrial nations, more than 30 science organizations in the U.S. that have weighed in on the matter, and 97 percent of scientists who have published on the matter.

Whom does Mr. Peter’s rely upon for his rebuttal? Industry front groups like the Orwellian-named “Friends of Science”, risible characters like “Lord Monckton” and a science fiction writer (Michael Crichton).

Mr. Peter cites “climategate”— a smear campaign wherein scientists’ emails were stolen and misrepresented by climate change deniers in an effort to manufacture a fake controversy aimed at sabotaging the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit.

Nine different investigations in the U.S. and U.K. found no evidence of impropriety by the scientists. Indeed, the only wrongdoing found was the criminal theft of the emails. Mr. Peter cites yet another discredited, more recent smear campaign against NOAA scientists for good measure.

Mr. Peter also maligns the well-known "hockey stick" temperature curve that my co-authors and I published in the late 1990s demonstrating recent warmth to be unpredented for at last the past millennium.  As I recount in “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”, this graph has been attacked by climate change deniers owing to the simple, undeniable message it conveys about the dramatic impact human activity is having on Earth's climate.

Yet the highest scientific body in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences, affirmed my research findings in an exhaustive independent review published in June 2006 (see e.g. "Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate", New York Times, June 22, 2006). The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that recent warmth is likely unprecedented over an even longer timeframe.

Readers interested in the truth behind the science, rather than the falsehoods and smears perpetuated by uninformed individuals, should consult scientist-run websites like skepticalscience.com, or books on the topic like my own “Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change”.

Let’s get past the fake debate about whether climate change is real, and onto the worthy debate over what to do about it.

Michael E. Mann

Distinguished Professor, Department of Meteorology, Penn State University

Director, Penn State Earth System Science Center

To solve climate change, passengers must now fly the plane

When it comes to climate change, most Americans are like passengers on a jetliner wanting to arrive safely at their destination but thinking there’s no need to be involved in flying the plane. The “people in charge,” surely, have things under control.

Lately, however, the plane has experienced a rough ride:

 Christmas Day, the temperature at Santa’s workshop – a.k.a. the North Pole – approached 32 degrees, 40 degrees above average.

 2016 set another record high for average global temperature, and 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred in this century.

Floods, like those that struck Louisiana and North Carolina last year, are happening as a result of unprecedented downpours.

All this turbulence is prompting passengers to rise from their seats to check with the pilot. Upon opening the cockpit door, however, they are shocked to see no one at the controls.

So, how do we avoid crashing into a mountainside?

It’s time for the passengers to start flying the plane. This entails setting aside cynicism about our government and engaging with our representatives in Congress. It requires us to seek common ground between Republicans and Democrats. The concern we hear most is that addressing climate change will impact the economy and jobs.

We can alleviate those fears and find that common ground with a market-based solution that holds polluters accountable for damage to our air, water and climate. A steadily-rising fee on carbon, with all revenue returned to households, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy.

A study from Regional Economic Models, Inc., considered a policy whereby a fee on the carbon dioxide content of fuels would increase $10 per ton each year. The REMI study found that emissions would drop more than 50 percent in 20 years. The economy would add 2.8 million jobs, boosted by recycling of revenue back to households.

But can Democrats and Republicans in Congress work together on climate change?

Hopeful signs emerged in 2016 with the creation of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which has equal membership from both sides of the aisle. The caucus creates a safe space for Republicans and Democrats to have an honest dialogue about ways to reduce the risks we face in a warming world. By making our voices heard, we can grow the ranks of the Climate Solutions Caucus and reach the critical mass to pass bipartisan legislation.

None of this can happen, however, unless we take control and put the plane back on course. As astronaut Rusty Schweickart said, “We aren’t passengers on spaceship Earth, we’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet, we’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility.”

Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds is executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby

A fundamental point to note

My appreciation to Mark Peters for his persistence and integrity in presenting “climate change and facts” (2/16/17), and to the U-T Community Press for publishing information that many refuse to acknowledge, and some are working to criminalize.

Mr. Peters listed only a few of the serious concerns about the accuracy and honesty of climate change data. Other scientists have researched the relationships between CO2 and global temperature, and found that temperature change leads changes in CO2 levels, rather then the reverse; also that CO2 is a vital source of fuel for plants rather than a threat to the planet. Recently, the Wall Street Journal revealed that “the warmest year on record” was warmer by 0.01C—well within the long-standing 0.1C margin of error that alarmists are happy to ignore. Costs of reducing the claimed impact of CO2 emissions on global temperatures are astronomical in terms of human life, and the results are negligible. Using the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Induced Climate Change developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, even if all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States were eliminated, there would be less than two-tenths of a degree Celsius reduction in global temperatures.

There is however, a more fundamental point, mentioned in Mr. Peters’ first letter: the impact on children’s confidence in their ability to face the challenges that life presents, by teaching them that the very things all our lives depend on — freedom, reason, science and technology — are destroying the earth. Government, including public schools, consumed with the idea that central planners should dictate how each of us may live our lives, are teaching children the age-old doctrine that humans are at best helpless victims of nature, and at worst a pox on the earth. In either case, deprivation and suffering are dictated as the answer.

Nature certainly is dangerous. Without the technology developed by individual men and women that makes possible our ever-increasing standards of living and ever-expanding lifespans, life certainly would be brutal, nasty and short. For people living under centralized government control, without the freedom to think and act based on their own independent judgment, life still is — even today, billions of people have no access to electricity or clean water. Technology is what protects us from the weather, and political freedom is what makes that technology possible. Children need to learn to think and to challenge with confidence, not believe and follow in fear. They need to learn to use their individual minds to identify facts and use reason to solve problems, and to become independent, courageous thinkers like the men and women behind the millions of technological advances that have made our current enjoyment of life possible.

Catherine Dickerson

Solana Beach

Fifty shades of Issa

Buried under the tweets from Washington, D.C., was something darker and more consequential - a Washington Post piece about the weather, “It’s about 50 degrees warmer than normal near the North Pole, yet again.” Not a half a degree, not 5 degrees, but an astonishing 50 degrees above normal! It can be hard to relate to numbers about climate change when the changes are a fraction of a degree here and there and you are buried under snow on the East Coast, but 50 degrees is the difference in winter and summer in most of the U.S.

Svalbard, halfway between the Norway and the North Pole, has seen temperatures near 40 degrees. Think about that. One of the coldest places on earth is warmer than a winter night in San Diego. Snow and ice are melting fast, making the earth’s surface darker, causing more warming, and more melting.

You know the predictions: sea level rise, more extreme weather, droughts and floods, and dramatic changes to habitat, but the problems go far beyond this and strike to the heart of U.S. national security. The U.S. military identified climate as a serious national security threat starting with a 1990 U.S. Navy War College assessment. Since then our military services have published 27 increasingly urgent reports.

The key threats are immediate damage to our military installations, “tropical” diseases, and the creation of massive refugee populations. First, the Navy Times reports that rising ocean levels threaten to submerge 128 military bases. Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world, currently floods nine times a year and is projected to flood 280 times a year by 2050. $100 billion in assets are currently under near-term threat. Second, Military studies have identified diseases including Zika, Dengue, Yellow Fever, and malaria as deadly threats that we are already seeing on the U.S. mainland. (Disease experts from UCSD met with senior U.S. military staff this month.) Third, the Institute of Defense Analysis predicts 200 million permanent environmental refugees by 2050 – far greater than the refugee problems of today.

We need decisive environmental leadership, but that isn’t what we are getting from our representative. Darrell Issa has an environmental score of 4 percent out of 100 percent for his support of dirty energy, according to The League of Conservation Voters. He has said, “The suggestion that there is a scientific consensus on climate change is itself a myth.” Well, Darrell, our military leaders as well as the scientists at UCSD’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography would be happy to disabuse you of your wishful, ill-informed opinion. I would tell him, but the San Diego Union-Tribune just reported that he refuses to do town hall meetings.

Pamela J. Reynolds, Ph.D.

Environmental Science Teacher

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