Global warming discussion needs balanced perspective
To the Editor:
On Saturday, April 13, the Daily Globe published an article written by Ralph Ansami summarizing a report by the Heartland Institute (presumably at blog.heritage.org/tag/global-warming/) concerning the global warming controversy.
According to the article, loss of jobs and higher product costs (e.g. electricity, cars, food) by reducing carbon emissions were unacceptable. Environmental damage due to uncontrolled global warming was also said to be exaggerated while ignoring benefits of milder winters and enhanced plant growth due to higher carbon dioxide levels.
One thing I, as a former environmental scientist, learned is that when deciding the validity of conclusions, check the source of funding for that research. Researchers often refuse to shed a bad light on their funding source’s interests. Let’s be clear — the Heartland Institute has a long history of opposing any regulations on industry. The Institute is described by Wikipedia as a conservative “think tank” that receives contributions from oil companies and the Koch brothers. Are the Institute’s conclusions wrong? It is hard to tell when those likely reflect the perspective of their donors.
Despite our very cold winter here, the overall worldwide trend remains one of rising temperatures on average. That is the whole world — not just North America. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a new report (ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/) just last week which said that carbon emissions — largely from burning oil, gas and coal — grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in any of the three previous decades and will need to be slashed 40 percent to 70 percent by mid-century and almost entirely by century’s end to keep global temperatures from spiraling out of control.
Is there actual data to back up that prediction? Yes, lots of it. Is there uncertainty in it? Yes to that, too. Even the best research has a certain degree of error or bias possible. But let’s assume that the scientists are right.
The Heartland Institute report appears to do just that, but argues the consequences of reducing our carbon emissions lack sufficient benefit to justify the effort to reduce carbon emissions. Tell that to the people in New York City or Florida when half the coast is under water.
This important discussion must include a more balanced perspective pro and con. Only then can intelligent and responsible decisions be made. Climate change is real, and what we do (or don’t do) will have consequences for generations.