To the Editor:
We all know the danger of falsely crying “Fire” in a crowded theater, but even more dangerous is crying ‘There is no fire!’ when smoke and flames are already visible.
The Mount Desert Islander has published many letters by Mr. Tom Rolfes, most recently on Aug. 22, that present a contrarian perspective on human-caused global warming, typically denying that it exists or minimizing its importance.
Mr. Rolfe’s right to express his opinion is unquestioned and I support the Islander’s willingness to continue publishing his letters, although their conclusions disagree with current scientific understanding, the judgment of nearly the entire scientific community and, increasingly, public opinion.
Mr. Rolfe’s reliance on Christopher Monckton as a primary source of information is extremely unfortunate. A convenient link for those wishing to check the veracity of Monckton’s statements is “Climate Misinformation by Source: Christopher Monckton,” at skepticalscience.com, where his statements are debunked point for point.
Instead, I recommend that Mr. Rolfes and anyone wishing to understand the seriousness of the climate crisis read International Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2018 report “Global warming of 1.5°C: An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty,” which is freely available online at ipcc.ch/sr15/.
It is a detailed and challenging read, but is the most expert source of climate information available.
The report unequivocally demonstrates that global warming is occurring and is caused by human emissions of heat-trapping gases, principally carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels, but also by other human activities including deforestation and agriculture. It evaluates the savings in human health, ecosystem health and adaptation costs that can be obtained by limiting warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) rather than 2°C (3.6°F) or more.
Mr. Rolfes is correct that the transition to a renewable, emissions-free economy will require significant inputs of materials, including metals. Even with the most careful sourcing and production of those materials there will be environmental and social impacts, but there will also be enormous opportunities for energy savings, innovation and economic growth. The alternative of not transitioning to renewables is untenable for it is a path to global misery, previews of which we already see as intense heat events, floods, drought, crop losses, wildfires, spread of parasites and tropical diseases, habitat loss and increased risks of extinction for plants and animals, sea level rise, climate refugees, increased political strife and consequent severe economic losses.
I very much hope that Mr. Rolfes will read the IPCC report and become a proponent for the urgent changes it advocates. Given the facts and scenarios detailed there, I believe that his current views are not only misinformed and misguided, but also dangerous to the health of humans, our societies and the biosphere.