Letter: Global Warming: Keep an Open Mind
Global Warming: Mixed Evidence
To the Editor:
I have done research on global warming and possible ecological effects since 1968, sometimes living in New Hampshire, doing research in the White Mountains. I have worked on some climate models and developed a computer model of forests used to forecast possible effects of global warming on forests and biodiversity. I published scientific papers about forecasting effects on biodiversity and comparing the extent of 19th-century Arctic sea ice with today’s, using whaling ships’ logbooks.
Having read letters to the Valley News about climate change, I would like to put some balance in the discussion. What began as a difficult scientific problem with potential major environmental effects has unfortunately turned into a moral issue, a counterproductive blame game. Rather than seek those who agrees with our informal opinions and accuse others of immoral practices, we need to keep our eyes on the science.
We have been living in a warming trend. The question is whether we are causing it; that is becoming more open to question. Through the mid-1990s, the weight of scientific evidence was on the side that greenhouse gases we produced were a significant cause of climate change. But some scientifically surprising contrary data were obtained recently. Among these: Antarctic glaciers ice cores show that, for the past 400,000 years, changes in carbon dioxide lagged changes in temperature. A study of today’s Arctic climate suggests a similar lag. If so, carbon dioxide cannot be the primary cause of the current warming period. This created a scientific puzzle: whether this is an artifact of research methods or a scientifically sound result.
Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase rapidly, but global average temperatures, increasing slightly, are not tracking the CO2 well. Instead, the best correlation with average temperature is variations in sunlight.
Given such contradictory evidence, what can a citizen do? Maintain an open, seeking mind. Avoid seeing global warming as only a moral issue rather than a scientific and technological problem. Keep alert about global warming, but focus on environment damage we are causing today, such as habitat destruction, controlling invasive species, assisting now-endangered species, reducing toxic substance release, and sustaining forests and fisheries.
Daniel B. Botkin
Department of Biology, University of Miami
Coral Gables, Fla.
Attacking the Messenger
To the Editor:
A.E. Norton’s letter Feb. 3 (“Lies in the Eye of the Beholder”) suggests that because other presidents have lied, then it is OK that President Obama lies to us. Such moral relativism sets a very low threshold for citizens’ expectations of truth from elected officials. One might ask: Why do we, the voters, accept demonstrable lies uttered by so many politicians?
Moral relativism is also used to discount legitimate points. Witness Sydney Lea’s angry response (“Do the Arithmetic,” Jan. 14) to my Jan. 11 letter, in which I discussed the end of my health insurance plan and rising premiums under Obamacare/Green Mountain Care. Rather than deal with that issue, Mr. Lea preferred instead to draw an analogy to the Iraq war, then challenged my mathematical abilities! By the moral relativistic standard of Norton and Lea, because “W” lied about Iraq, Obama’s lies (“if you like your health care plan, you can keep it”) are excusable because they are somehow less egregious?
Dare I suggest that Norton and Lea are intelligent men who can and should do better than to ignore the point, change the subject, ignore facts, attack the messenger, and excuse the failings of their favored political figures? Shouldn’t we all?
Poor Choice of Words
To the Editor:
I am writing regarding a column by Jim Kenyon in the Sunday Valley News Feb. 2, titled “A Taxing Dilemma.” The gist of this article was correct — it was about the debate now taking place in my home town of Strafford over the payment and collection of delinquent taxes. However, Mr. Kenyon’s tone toward our collector of deliquent taxes was anything but correct. Not once, but twice, he referred to her as a “bounty hunter.” To me these words depict a person who wholeheartedly and uncaringly goes after people to make them pay what they owe.
In Strafford, our tax collector could not be more different. She has been a friend of mine for nearly 40 years and is one of the kindest women I know. She has worked unstintingly for our town for 25 years and has carried out her duties — often difficult and unpleasant — with grace, diplomacy, integrity and a great deal of compassion for the neediest of our residents. She is an elected town official, and her method of payment is set by state statute.
I think Jim Kenyon’s use of the words “bounty hunter” is hurtful, inappropriate and spurious. In my opinion, this adds up to very poor journalism.
My Experience With Fluoridation
To the Editor:
I read with interest the letters concerning fluoridation. I have examined many studies concerning this problem and other problems. Many studies go back and forth, from one side to another. For example, consider studies on coffee, eggs, saccharine, mammography, smoking, etc.
I can only relate my own experience with fluoridation. We lived in Fairfax County, Va., for 40-plus years. Fairfax County fluoridates its water supply. My five children have very few cavities. Our dentist had to add orthodontics to his practice because of the decrease in cavities. Forty years later, we have no apparent adverse effects and Fairfax County still fluoridates its water.
What is the difference between fluoridating the water supply and having fluoride put on children’s teeth at school or at the dentist’s?
White River Junction