I read Tom Rolfes’ Aug. 21 letter on climate change with great anticipation. Like Tom, I am a retired engineer with an interest but no particular expertise in the science of climate change. However, after reviewing his and related scientific references, I am convinced that the points in his letter are wrong.
It is unquestioned that atmospheric CO2, a major greenhouse gas, has now risen to its highest level in over 800,000 years, with a steep, steady climb starting with the Industrial Revolution. As a result, the Earth has been getting warmer, even over the last 15 years when you consider all the planet, not just 84 percent of the surface that Tom’s point is based on. Sea levels are also rising because the oceans are getting warmer and the world’s land ice is melting (even in Antarctica). In fact, all the major points in Tom’s letter have been considered by experts and rejected. Earth is getting warmer, with nothing on the horizon to change this trend.
Mainstream science is produced by thousands of experts from many countries, publishing peer-reviewed papers of their research across a wide range of scientific view-points. Their over-whelming consensus is that our climate change is due mostly to human activity — especially burning fossil fuels. Every professional scientific organization believes this. And the Pentagon views climate change as a threat to the security of our nation and the world at large.
On the other hand, organizations such as the ones referenced in Tom’s letter deny this. But that’s not surprising since their goal is not scientific but political. According to their web pages, they want to influence the political and public views of issues like climate change from a limited government perspective. Accepting climate change science would mean accepting a major role for government, which is anathema to them and apparently their funders.
Deniers like Heartland claim to be effective, and I believe it. A recent survey by Politifact of the 276 congressional Republicans found half did not believe the mainstream science. They did find eight Republicans willing to go on record supporting it; I was glad to see our Sen. Collins as one of these eight. I haven’t seen any similar study of Democratic legislators, and while I suspect that the fraction of deniers would be smaller, it probably wouldn’t be zero either. Making policy based on science and not science fiction should be a given of our leadership; currently it is not.
Clearly there are major implications for the economy and public policy if we take action now, but even more in the future if we don’t. I don’t know what solutions are cost-effective, but we will find some much faster once we get past the denial stage.