Letter to Editor: Climate Disagreement

To the Editor:

One cannot but applaud the enthusiasm shown by Isabella Childs Michael in her “Viewpoint” about climate change in the April 18 Islander.

However, based on the op-ed, it seems to me she needs to do a bit more study first before she proceeds further.

From the article, I’m going to assume a few definitions, at least as presented in her “Viewpoint” piece. First of all, I’m assuming Ms. Michael is looking at climate change (CC) as a human-caused condition (Anthropogenic). I’m also going to assume she is assuming the source of these changes is due to carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) from burning fossil fuels, like coal, oil and natural gas to deliver energy to our country; automobiles, generate electric power, provide heat for our homes, etc. Much of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution has in fact been due to these causes. That’s true.

But what hasn’t been proven by facts as yet is whether the increase in climate change is really due to the increases in CO2 in the atmosphere.

This is very important, because attempts to reduce CO2 levels from emissions just for the sake of reducing CC is unlikely to have much (realistically I’m going to say any) effect on the climate. Why? Because all the efforts to show what reductions in CO2 will have on climate are based on mathematical models which have not been proven to track reality over any realistic time period.

I’m not saying there isn’t or hasn’t been some warming of the planet, or rising of sea levels, but these changes have been going on since the ice age. Much of these effects are traceable to numerous other causes, such as the sun for example. Sunspots, solar wind, cosmic rays, water vapor, clouds, El Niño, La Nina, are all natural cycles that impact the atmosphere.

Now, what impact CO2 has is called the greenhouse effect. But the effect CO2 has is very limited, and is becoming smaller as CO2 levels rise, because the technical relationship is actually logarithmic, which means the more the CO2 concentration increases, the less the effect on atmosphere. Put another way, “Each 20 ppm of CO2 increase now provides about 0.03 dg C of warming.”

This is shown to be true, because the Earth warmed less than 0.7 degrees C during the 20th century, while the CO2 levels went from about 280 ppm to about 400 ppm now. Actually, there has been little if any warming for the last 20 years. Check it out.

But, there is one truth about increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and that is the greening of the earth from CO2. Prior to the industrial age, in the glacial periods of the planet, the CO2 levels were about 180 ppm. It is known that plant growth shuts down at 150 ppm, so the planet was within 30 ppm of disaster. Terrestrial life came close to being wiped out by a lack of CO2 in the atmosphere. There is ample information from satellite data to confirm this, as well increasing crop yields all over the world which have been reported/confirmed.

Given our increasing world population, we actually need more CO2 in the atmosphere to feed this growing population.

So, while it is quite one thing to reduce emissions due to wasted energy, all efforts to do so should only be done if it improves the efficiency of energy production. Certainly in Maine, increased electrical production by converting to natural gas power plants or more hydro, or nuclear is what is needed. So far, converting to electric vehicles or solar or wind power can only be effective if a source of energy storage can be developed to regulate electrical energy when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. When and if economical and efficient storage can be developed that doesn’t throw off greater emissions than it saves, then we can think about reducing emissions, or holding them constant.

Ms. Michael should be applauded for her enthusiasm, and for her energy. As long as it gets focused in the right direction.


Tom Rolfes

Somesville and


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