Here's another great letter to the editor:
Global warming is really about power and money
It is with morbid fascination that I watch politicians and uninformed people attempt to influence decisions about power generation, especially when most of them have no experience in this business other than appeasing a misguided agenda. [...]
Most agendas are driven by power or money. Governments, foundations and opportunists [...] are pushing the global warming agenda.
A little research will show that 99 percent of the greenhouse gases in the world are not created by man. The 1930s was the warmest decade in recorded history. The Earth has warmed only .7 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years. The ice mass of Antarctica is larger than any time in its history.
More harmful greenhouse gases are emitted by all the cows in the world than by all the automobiles.
The top of Mount Kilimanjaro is cooler than it was 10 years ago. The lack of snow is caused by cultivation of the arid land around its base.
If everyone in the world drove a hybrid car, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced less than .2 percent. [...]
[name and address redacted]
Here is my response:
Power and money? How about accuracy and honesty?
A major problem with the public square is that--as on talk radio or cable TV--standards are appallingly low. There is precious little fact-checking, and media personalities more commonly resemble stenographers than journalists. Spouting opinions is easy; determining their veracity--and thereby differentiating fact from opinion--can be quite difficult. Here is some information that was, to put it charitably, misrepresented by a previous commenter:
ASSERTION: A little research will show that 99 percent of the greenhouse gases in the world are not created by man.
CORRECTION: A little more research will show that greenhouse gases have increased drastically since the pre-industrial era (before 1750). The Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center found the following: nitrous oxide increased by 18%, carbon dioxide by 35%, and methane by 153%. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's "Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers" explains the increases:"Global increases in CO2 concentrations are due primarily to fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution. It is very likely that the observed increase in CH4 concentration is predominantly due to agriculture and fossil fuel use. [...] The increase in N2O concentration is primarily due to agriculture."
ASSERTION: The Earth has warmed only .7 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years.
CORRECTION: Although this number is roughly accurate, it is intended to mislead, if not by implication then by hoped-for inference. The relatively small temperature change to date indicates a trend that could have devastating consequences. For one example, check out the EPA's Global Warming FAQ, which observes:"Global temperatures during the last ice age (about 20,000 years ago) were 'only' 9°F cooler than today, but that was enough to allow massive ice sheets to reach as far south as the Great Lakes and New York City."
ASSERTION: The 1930s was the warmest decade in recorded history.
CORRECTION: That decade may have been the warmest in the United States, but the US only represents 2% of the world's surface. Temperatures continue to rise both in the US and around the world. According to a study by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "The U.S. mean temperature has now reached a level comparable to that of the 1930s, while the global temperature is now far above the levels earlier in the century."
ASSERTION: The ice mass of Antarctica is larger than any time in its history.
CORRECTION: According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "The first-ever gravity survey of the entire Antarctic ice sheet... concludes the ice sheet's mass has decreased significantly...Antarctica's ice sheet decreased by 152 (plus or minus 80) cubic kilometers of ice annually between April 2002 and August 2005."
ASSERTION: More harmful greenhouse gases are emitted by all the cows in the world than by all the automobiles.
CORRECTION: This is true, but also misleading. The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (among others) estimates that "livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport," but this doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to automotive fuel efficiency; it suggests that we should examine factory farming, deforestation, and other aspects of our diet. (See this ClimateAction report for more information.)
ASSERTION: The top of Mount Kilimanjaro is cooler than it was 10 years ago. The lack of snow is caused by cultivation of the arid land around its base.
CORRECTION: This may be partially true, but it is also misleading. Four years ago, National Geographic noted that the Kilimanjaro glaciers "have lost 82 percent of their ice since 1912" and "could be gone entirely by 2020." This BBC report states that, although researchers "have a certain expectation that the slope glaciers may last longer" than earlier estimates, the ice is more sensitive to lack of rainfall than it is to temperature change: "the regular snows that would maintain the ice fields are now a rare occurrence in what has become a much drier climate in East Africa...the drying of the East African climate around Kilimanjaro may itself be a regional impact of global climate change."
ASSERTION: If everyone in the world drove a hybrid car, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced less than .2 percent.
CORRECTION: The IPCC estimates road transportation at 13.1% of total GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. A conservative estimate of 30% emissions reduction (the results achieved by FedEx hybrids over their first million miles), replacing every existing vehicle with a hybrid would reduce total emissions by nearly 4%. Hybrids are obviously no panacea, but their increased fuel efficiency can help us on many fronts (FedEx also noted a 96% reduction in particulate matter emissions, no small matter to people suffering from asthma, allergies, and other conditions aggravated by airborne pollutants).
That ends this episode of Climate Change Denialism: "a misguided agenda...driven by power or money." Thanks for playing...would you like to try again, perhaps using some numbers that are both accurate and relevant?