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
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
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.
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