To the Editor:
The recent exchange of letters between Tom Rolfes and me on climate change is representative of the “debate” on the national level: one side stating the science, the other rejecting any science that might lead to government regulation.
For those interested in scientific questions, the answers are easy to find. The definitive and comprehensive summary of climate change trends and impacts can be found in reports by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Written by experts from more than 130 countries, it covers all aspects of climate change including global warming, rising ocean levels, loss of global ice mass, increased ocean acidity and more.
For a non-government source, both “Nature” and realclimate.org have excellent material.
Climate scientists are agreed: the only theory that unifies all of these changes is increasing CO2, caused primarily by burning fossil fuels.
But science is generally not the issue in this “debate.” A political philosophy often is.
The book “Merchants of Doubt” by Oreskes and Conway provides a good review of why some groups, primarily conservatives and libertarians, have attacked the science behind environmental issues. They deny concerns about not only climate change, but also tobacco smoke, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, DDT and more. They see a vast conspiracy at work behind government environmental regulations bent on destroying our way of life.
I do not. Of course government regulations can always be improved, but they have helped protect the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink and fish in. And our economy has flourished.
Our government’s policy response to the reality of climate change is required, and the sooner the better. It will determine what sort of world we bequeath to our descendants. That is the moral thing to do.