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Letter: Misinformation About Climate Change

To the Editor:

I was disappointed that the Valley News chose to publish E. Thomas McClanahan’s ill-informed piece on climate change. Instead of focusing on the current scientific data and thinking, he repeated many misconceptions. The Earth’s climate is a complex system, and the effects of the warming we have seen (0.8 degrees C over the last 150 years) and have yet to experience will not be uniform.

For example, warmer atmospheric temperatures exacerbate drought-prone areas, making 100-year droughts occur more frequently. But warmer air also holds more moisture, and this make storms, where they occur, more intense with greater rain or snowfall. So, seemingly opposite effects are driven by the same cause.

He also goes on to repeat many of the same lies that have reverberated around the Internet for years. The so-called “climategate” emails did not indicate that data were manipulated — there have been no less than nine independent studies on both sides of the ocean that came to that conclusion. The Met Office did not predict that there would be no significant warming for the next five years. Its decadal forecast focused on how the ocean temperatures (a major driver of climate) will change over the next five years. While the models showed lower ocean temperatures from previous projections, they still showed warming over land areas and enhanced warming over the Arctic. The Met Office stressed that this five-year forecast cannot be used to make projections of long-term climate change.

Finally, McClanahan goes on to say that measures such as the Kyoto Protocol and cap-and-trade will be ineffective. This is a common strategy of conflating science with policy. Contrary to his piece, the scientific evidence is strong that the globe is warming, human activity is a primary driver, and the effects will be more negative than positive. How one deals with this — what policy is adopted, in other words — is complex and far from clear. However, before we can develop rational policy solutions, we need to recognize the scientific agreement on the scope of the problem. Unfortunately, people like McClanahan continue to thwart that effort.

Michael Hillinger



Column: When in Doubt, Blame Climate Change

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last year was the hottest on record in the contiguous United States. As The New York Times put it in a recent headline, it was “not even close.” A couple of days later, The Times published a roundup of global weather gone wild, reinforcing the shift that took place some time back, in …