Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Climate Change Denier Has Facts Wrong

To the editor, The Record:

After reading Gregory Rummo’s opinion essay, “Obama, climate, the poor and God,” I found several of his points to sit uncomfortably. Despite a roughly 97 percent consensus in the scientific community on anthropogenic climate change, the voices of a few skeptics and pseudo-scientists are magnified to create an illusion that instills doubt into this matter.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has produced assessments based on cumulative research gathered worldwide that reveal overwhelming evidence of negative impacts due to a warming climate. 

To cite three Rummo claims that are nonexistent: wild fires, drought, and storm severity--all are confirmed in their Assessment Reports. Since 1980 the average areas burned in U.S. have doubled their average cover from 1920-1980. This is based on a warming climate, which results in longer summers that dries fuels and promotes ignition and faster spread. Warmth has also led to early snowmelt, longer growing seasons, and drought. Specifically, Alaskan and south western forests have experienced a decline in growth, and the Corn and Wheat Belt are producing lower yields due to an increase in drought stress. Lastly, it is indisputable that tropical storms feed off warm surface water temperatures. Scientists have found that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes have increased since 1970, a trend closely following that of a warming ocean.

Furthermore, I find Rummo’s argument that carbon dioxide reduction is an attack on the welfare of the poor to be the most disturbing. Anthropogenic climate change poses major threats to global welfare, with those most vulnerable often being those with few resources. In the face of sea-level rise, low-lying island nations are particularly at risk of mass displacement with poorly developed infrastructure and limited resources to mitigate the impacts. In fact, coastal regions around the globe rely on marine resources to sustain their livelihoods, and ocean acidification, sea-level rise, biodiversity loss and coastal erosion severely threaten their well-being. 

Carbon dioxide is vital to maintain the Earth’s atmospheric stasis, but an unprecedented excess in combination with a decline in the capacity of natural carbon sinks has lead to degradation to this planet – of which God, I would argue, has clearly requested our stewardship.

It is imperative to shift our way of thinking. Capital extends far beyond economics; it encompasses the natural resources that humans would perish without. Improving human activity in a way that helps curb our rising levels of carbon dioxide is the only way to save our natural capital from depletion. Destroying the quality of life is the worst possible attack on humanity – much worse than increased gas prices.

Brittany Ryan
Mahwah, NJ

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