‘It’s prudent to have insurance’


To the editor:

The Boggses’ letter to the editor (“Every weather has never been out of the ordinary,” Dec. 14) purports to be a reply to those who “blame every weather event on global warming.” I am unaware of Gazette letters that assert that.

One of my letters did refer to peer-reviewed research in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, about half of which did find high probability that the effects of the events studied — such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, extreme temperatures — were heightened by global warming (obviously the other papers did not; this is how science works, examining he evidence and letting the data speak). Scientists deal in probabilities rather than proof; as I have explained previously, scientific proof does not exist, so it would be scientifically impossible to prove that the cause of a weather event is global warming.

They quote Mr. (Nicolas) Loris approvingly. Loris is a master’s-degree economist, not a scientist, who works for an ideologically driven organization, the Heritage Foundation, which has supported denialism along with the notorious Heartland Institute. The 2010 Loris quotes the Boggses used were as wrong then as now.

Of course, assessments are subject to revision when new data exists and new theoretical understanding is discovered, which is why the IPCC releases its reports every few years. However, Loris is referring specifically to the hacked University of East Anglia emails — as the quote from a bit later in the blog shows — and every investigation of the emails has shown that the scientists are innocent of every charge denialists have accused them of.

I certainly agree with their statement that weather variability is always present and I also agree that we now have sensors that can more easily identify events we may have missed in the past. I even agree that exploitation of fossil fuels “improved the quality of life for millions.”

I do not see what any of these have to do with whether fossil fuels need to be phased out in favor of renewables. As Roger Revelle and Hans Suess wrote many years ago, “human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment” and we don’t know the outcome — which has every indication of being unhealthy for humans. It’s prudent to have insurance, and the Paris agreement by almost 200 nations is a first step in such an insurance policy, an agreement to try to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C. Even more prudent is to put a dollar cost to carbon emissions that reflects their cost to society (government estimates vary from $30 per tonne to as much as $220 per tonne) as is the proposal from the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which would impose a tax on emissions and distribute the proceeds to everyone.

Renewables’ energy costs are falling, and this will allow us to replace fossil energy swiftly and economically, even if health-degrading emissions from burning are not taxed. We are already seeing the effects of climate change here and now in Delaware — the polar vortex wandering of the past two winters and now the El Niño-affected warm weather we’re currently experiencing. (Last Saturday and Sunday busted past previous high temperature records for Dec. 12 and 13.) Prompt action now can prevent regret in the future.

Gordon Aubrecht