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Letter writer’s analysis of climate change flawed in three ways

Saturday, August 10, 2013
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Letter writer’s analysis of climate change flawed in three ways

In his Aug. 1 letter, Larry Lewis correctly noted that any realistic and sustainable response to climate change must be based on more than uninformed emotion. However, his suggestions that 1) the increased insurance claims from weather-related events are simply due to an increase in population density; 2) that the cause of the [approximately] 1 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures since the end of the Little Ice Age can be explained by natural climate variability, and 3) that planting trees alone would be a sufficient response to the ongoing threat of climate change are simply wrong.

One of the major global reinsurance companies, Munich Re (munichre.com), has been compiling global statistics on weather-related events that result in insurance claims. Their data are compiled annually and, thus, trends cannot be explained simply by population growth, especially those trends for developed nations, which generally have very low rates of population growth.

The geologic record is replete with evidence of weather-related events long before humans evolved to combust fossil fuels, and, yes, no single storm can be attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions. However, multi-decadal trends clearly reveal the impact that we are having on our weather and on our climate.

The question of whether or not the 1 degree Celsius warming that has occurred since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution can be explained by natural climate variability (e.g., the end of the Little Ice Age approximately 1850 AD) can be best addressed by looking at the geologic record. For much of the last 2 million years, the Earth has oscillated between ice ages and interglacial periods. The latter typically last about 12,000 years, and our current interglacial period began about 11,500 years ago.

The approximately 1 degree Celsius warming of the last 150 years, occurring at the end of the current interglacial period, is indeed anomalous. The past 2 million years of Earth’s history would predict slow cooling and the very gradual onset of the next ice age many centuries into our future. While few would advocate for a renewed ice age, there is very little doubt among climate scientists that the current warming trend is due primarily to increased global greenhouse gases linked to fossil-fuel combustion.

The notion that trees alone could offset the growing carbon footprint of fossil-fuel combustion overlooks the simple fact that the uptake of atmospheric CO2 [carbon dioxide] by photosynthesis is balanced almost exactly by the release of that same CO2 by respiration. Simply put, trees absorb CO2 while they grow, but they release it back to the atmosphere when they decay. While trees are invaluable for all the reasons noted by Mr. Lewis, they do not sequester carbon from the atmosphere for long enough to make a significant long-term difference to the atmospheric carbon budget.

The only unbalanced exchange in the global carbon cycle is the combustion of fossil fuels, and any effective global response to climate change must include a major reduction in the transfer of carbon from geologic deposits to the atmosphere. This inconvenient truth is inescapable.

Donald T. Rodbell

Schenectady

The writer is professor and chairman of the Geology Department at Union College.

Need no reason to pay low-wage workers more

I read with a growing sense of alarm the articles on fast-food workers demanding a doubling of the minimum wage.

The sad, cold reality of the situation is that workers are paid in accordance with the value they add to a business. If they add lots of value, they are paid proportionate amounts. To cite that the worker cannot afford his rent, to feed his children, etc., simply uses my empathy and pity for others as a weapon against me to gain support for their cause.

Rather than raise minimum wages, how about if workers take the personal responsibility for raising their value to the business and earn more pay? Or take the responsibility for finding a field where they are more valued and therefore paid more?

The country of Greece and city of Detroit are the “canaries in the mine shaft” of what will happen to this country if we keep increasing the money spent for no additional value.

Raising the minimum wage or the entitlements paid to the growing percentage of people receiving them, based on their need, rather than on the value they add to our economy: It is an unsustainable model.

Jeffrey A. Clark

Ballston Spa

Clean our own house before bothering with Mideast

What is more ridiculous than appointing an ex-U.S. senator, now secretary of State [John Kerry] in our present administration, to broker a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

The two foreign entities have been enemies for centuries, or maybe millennia if biblical history is accurate on the subject, but now we are going to fix their problem?

How likely is that when the United States has a long history of failure in just such past efforts and cannot ameliorate the hatred between our domestic Palestinians and Israelis, otherwise known as Democrats and Republicans?

Maybe we should get our own house in order before we set out to show others how to do it.

C.J. Guare

Scotia

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comments

August 10, 2013
12:42 a.m.
Will1960 says...

@Jeffrey Clark,

"The sad, cold reality of the situation is that workers are paid in accordance with the value they add to a business"

Wendy's had no objection to paying it's CEO, Emil Brolick 21 Million last year, but they have fought tooth and nail against paying a living wage for the workers who do the grunt work that makes their business go? The Minimum wage debate is also tied in with the disparity between the rich and poor. America is the only country where the sky's the limit when it comes to pay differentials between CEOs, upper management and low level workers. Such policies may permeate the grand illusion of the American Dream, however greed and gluttony shouldn't be the cornerstones of our economic polices. Unfortunately, those qualities have dictated the regulations which governor low wage workers.

The proposed increase in fast food workers pay would lead to slight increases in what consumers would pay for product. So you pay a little more for a hamburger, so workers can make a livable wage. That trade-off is fair and just despite the cries from the business community that the sky will fall. It won't.

August 10, 2013
12:43 a.m.
Fritzdawg says...

Jeffrey A. Clark:
"The sad, cold reality of the situation is that workers are paid in accordance with the value they add to a business. If they add lots of value, they are paid proportionate amounts."
/
What color is the sky in your world, are there rides?
It's labor, not skilled labor, just labor.
Not every employee is an executive, and Lord knows, in the current culture of willful ignorance, very few will be in the future.
/
Not every janitor they hire on is going to increase their bottom line by thinking of the next big thing, or by cleaning the toilets so inordinately well that the public takes notice.
/
Bottom line is, that worker is still going to feed his children, and pay his rent, no matter what.
/
I don't think it is my responsibility to pay for either, because his employer refuses to, because it might interfere with them making the most obscene profits in history.
/
I'm damned tired of paying for other people's rent, food, and health care because their employers, while reaping record breaking profits, will not.

August 10, 2013
7:12 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Fast food restaurants are and have always been stepping stones to the future. You get some work experience while getting you're education and you move on to better paying jobs where you show you're skills (value) and you make more money. Only liberals want to pay people to do nothing. Our poor are far from poor in most cases, and I mean most. Our poor have TV's and cable and cell phones. It is an insult to the real poor of the world that die by the millions each year. I don't ever remember hearing of anyone starving to death in America in the last 50 years.

August 10, 2013
8:46 a.m.
amermike says...

I am dumbfounded by people's ignorance. If only fast food restaurants and big box stores were stepping stones to better jobs for everyone. The $21 milllion CEOs rely on that front line sales staff (and that's who they are, NOT people who do nothing) for their paychecks.

@Jeffrey Clark, do you actually have any empathy?

August 10, 2013
10:20 a.m.
albright1 says...

Rodbell,
You should have disclosed that a great deal of your income is based on grants of taxpayers money to further the myth of man-made global warming. You are not an unbiased source of opinion. Additionally, you present no case that warming is caused by human activities. You present no case that warming is bad for earth's inhabitants.

August 10, 2013
11:03 a.m.
Will1960 says...

@wmarincic

How is paying fast food employees a reasonable wage an insult to the poor? The real issue is how excessive should the profits of CEOs and upper management be garnered on the backs of the workers who perform the hard labor for these corporations. The CEOS and stockholders of the fast food industry have gotten a pass long enough while the government has picked up the tab for this exploitation. A livable wage is long overdue for these workers so they won't rely so heavily on government assistance.

August 10, 2013
11:03 a.m.
ronzo says...

In a past economy, fast food restaurants have traditionally been a stepping stone toward job advancement, or as a supplemental income to those who relied on someone else for financial support. In today’s economy and job opportunity, fast food service employment has become the only job, or career if you can call it that, for many who do not have either the ability, opportunity, education or luck to rise to higher level jobs and pay. There are some, but today’s fast food workers are well beyond high school and early adult age. That’s a reason why young adult unemployment is the highest it’s been in decades. So to deprive a person from trying to better support their family because corporate greed prevails, is probably not a society that our founders anticipated 225 years from their actions.

August 10, 2013
3:39 p.m.
wmarincic says...

A double cheeseburger is $1 so you want to pay unskilled workers twice as much and raise the price to $2. You can all blame your hero Obama for lack of jobs, high gas prices and higher taxes. Don't worry though, for the 19th time jobs are Obamas priority.

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