Sunday, January 6, 2008

Re: Br-r-r! Where did the global warming go? (in response to Boston Globe OpEd piece)
Sunday, January 6, 2008 3:02:01 PM

There was an OpEd piece in the Boston Globe today by Jeff Jacoby. Basically, he made the case that because there is snow and cold weather in unusual amounts and in unusual places, then global warming is not happening. Well, I had to reply. :) Here is the link to the editorial, and my letter in response.


Br-r-r! Where did the global warming go?

6 January 2008

Dear Jeff,

Just because last year was not the warmest on record does not mean that global climate change has stopped happening. Just because Massachusetts had a lot of snow in the month of December doesn't mean a new ice age has arrived! I use the term climate change - and not global warming - because not every place is going to get warmer. The overall effect will be warmer, but many places will be colder. Some places will be wetter, some will be drier. The operative word is change. That change is real and has been measured in every climate zone all over the world.

To come up with a list of places that had unusually cold weather does not mean that it's getting colder. If anything, it may add to the evidence that significant climate change is happening. I bet one can point to a number of places that had unusually warm weather this winter. I know that my hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania - known for its annual snowfalls in the snowbelt near the Great Lakes - is having an unusually low snowfall year. When I was there for Christmas this year, there was NO snow on the ground. People commented about how unusual it was, and that they've been seeing this for the last several years.

There are scientific questions about the relative effect of CO2 levels versus solar output. However the scientific consensus today says that it's not the sun that's causing the changes, but human activity.

There is a genuine question where we should allocate funds to reduce human suffering in the word. But if we don't make a concerted effort over the next 50 years to reduce carbon emissions, the scientific consensus is unequivocal: we will risk severe climate changes that will cause great hardship to millions and possibly billions of people all over the world. If changing weather patterns reduce global farm production by even 20% year-on-year, what will happen to the millions of people in the world who are already living in the margins?

Without addressing long-term carbon dioxide output over the next 50 years, it won't matter if we have spent money on education or healthcare or economic development in our efforts to help the poor around the world. All of those efforts will be swept away. The costs to address this today are very small compared to the potential harm and costs that we are facing.

It's funny that you question whether global warming is happening, but then say it's easier to adapt than try to prevent it. Is it happening or not? Yes, we will need to adapt, but if we don't address the cause of this problem as the first priority, adaptation will not be enough.

We may look outside our doors in Massachusetts and see an unusually snowy winter, but that doesn't mean the climate problem has gone away.

Mark Bohrer


  1. Good response, except that I think global warming deniers really know the truth and intentionally mislead people on the facts.

    It's like creationism vs. evolution. The people pushing Intelligent Design *knew* exactly what they were doing.

  2. Thanks for the reply.

    I'm not sure about the deniers though. If they really knew it as true, they wouldn't be deniers. :) Unless they're being deliberately contrarian, I think the deniers have real reasons.

    Some would say that it's not really happening. That's easy enough to disprove. If they say it's real, then it's either not caused by us or not a danger (yet). If this is what you believe, then you wouldn't be in favor of taking action to limit CO2.

    I'm open to asking questions about everything that's happening and what should be done, but the risks are so high that we can't afford to do nothing. We can't afford to be wrong. That risk makes it worth spending resources (some small percentage of our GDP I'd think) to address the problem, at least as a kind of insurance. If it frees us from dependency on Mideast oil in the process, and reduces other pollution sources, then it's all to the good.

    That's the best argument I can think of for someone who just can't believe it's all true.