Open Forum: ‘Cave’-men

Posted: July 16, 2013

Max Totten’s “Response from the Cave” (June 27) states that “the global community and Obama support AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming)-based policies which . . . will destroy the United States.” Our military has come to the opposite conclusion.

Admiral Locklear, the leader of U.S. naval action in Libya, recently said the warming Earth was “the most likely thing that . . . will cripple the security environment.” The Department of Defense, in a 2010 report, said “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.” In 2004, the Pentagon warned President Bush that catastrophic climate change is “plausible and would challenge U.S. national security in ways that should be considered immediately.” In 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified before Congress that AGW was 99 percent certain and would have consequences. Fortunately, our leaders are planning for the consequences of AGW, not burying themselves in a cave.

Mr. Totten claims he has “rebutted the true believers in AGW,” but I am aware of no relevant scientific articles he has published. In fact, in previous articles, he seems confused by the science, saying “greenhouse gases do affect sunlight. This is why you are more likely to get sunburned at high elevations,” when actually they have negligible effect on the sunburn-causing UV, but because of less atmospheric insulation it is, in fact, cooler at higher elevations.

Satellite measurements of radiation leaving our planet confirm CO2 absorbs infrared energy. More CO2 absorbs more infrared energy. That’s why Venus, whose atmosphere is 96 percent CO2, is much hotter than Mercury, despite being twice the distance from the sun. These measurements demonstrate the 40 percent increase in CO2 we’ve added to our atmosphere increases the heat absorption of Earth by an energy equivalent of four Hiroshima-sized bombs each second, agreeing with the physics of CO2 absorption.

Stating “it’s not important whether the mammoth was frozen in the spring with buttercups in its mouth or in the fall,” Mr. Totten seems to be saying facts do not matter. He says, “CO2 was originally called a greenhouse gas because it is essential to plant life . . . AGW hijacked the term and called what is essential and good, evil.”

In fact, prior to the 1850s it was “widely surmised that the Earth's atmosphere has a Greenhouse Effect, but he (John Tyndall) was the first to prove it.” This term was not hijacked, as conspiracy theorists suggest, but was used in its present form before the Civil War.

In its recent report, the World Metrological Organization reaffirms AGW, stating that Earth in the last decade “experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes.” This report “shows that global warming accelerated in the four decades of 1971 to 2010, and that the decadal rate of increase between 1991-2000, and 2001-10 was unprecedented.” The rate of sea level rise has doubled the last decade with clear implications for coastal areas, including those in Virginia.

I doubt the data I can present here will change his mind. By dismissing more than 12,000 peer-reviewed papers and ignoring both the consensus of climate scientists and the platform statements of nearly 200 scientific organizations, does he instead believe that AGW is a conspiracy?

To prove conspiracies, the motto is “Follow the money.” In this case, the fossil fuel industry has the money. They have contributed an average of $330,000 to climate deniers in Congress, four times that to the other members.

The owners of Koch Industries, which emits the CO2 equivalent of 5 million cars yearly, have spent more than $70 million to support policies advantageous to their corporate interests. A “Koch-funded nonprofit, Americans for Prosperity, devised the No Climate Tax pledge,” allowing CO2 emitters a free pass.

Last year, at least $110 billion of damage was attributable to AGW in the United States. This is in effect a climate disruption tax, equivalent to a 2.7 percentage point increase in what Americans paid in sales taxes last year. This “No Climate Tax” pledge continues policies that privatize profits and socialize costs.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and 410 other officeholders have signed this pledge. Cuccinelli has attempted to intimidate scientists, using state resources to sue U.Va,, despite five previous investigations into similar matters finding no wrongdoing. This suit was dismissed, but only after it cost U.Va. more than $350,000 to defend.

By saying “peer pressure and intimidation are the tools of politicians, not real scientists,” Mr. Totten appears to deplore Cuccinelli’s actions. Mr. Totten finishes by declaring: “Policies based on manipulated or false data can’t be trusted.” I agree.

AGW is settled science unless you are in a cave. We should debate how best to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and minimize their consequences. Delay does not alter the physics of AGW, but delay will increase its costs to citizens.

Nick Snow is a resident of Millwood.