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OPINION: Questions about global warming and climate change

OPINION: Questions about global warming and climate change

By Len Suzio

For me one of the biggest attractions to political life was the opportunity for vigorous and honest debate. I was badly disappointed. During my campaigns for state senate in the last 8 years there was not a single forum for an in-depth discussion and debate about the most important public issues.

During the 2018 campaign there were only 2 debate forums for the 13th senate district seat. The format of both forums limited responses to no more than 90 seconds and counter responses to only 1 minute. There was not a single forum in Cheshire or Middlefield, two of the four towns in the District.

The superficiality of campaigns at the state senate level sadly is mimicked at the highest office levels.

It’s bad enough that this superficiality permeates the political environment, but even science has been affected and tainted by politics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” (proponents and opponents use the terms interchangeably) debate.

All too often proponents of dire global warming call their opponents “deniers” while global warming skeptics label anthropogenic global warming proponents as “alarmists”. These ad hominem attacks do nothing to advance understanding of what is a very complex issue. In fact, they are counter productive because they alienate people on opposing sides resulting in closed minds.

I for one, would welcome a more thoughtful presentation of the science of climate change and the understanding of the impact of CO2 levels on climate and global temperatures. I’ve read articles and watched debates about the issue. I’ve learned a lot, but I have many unanswered questions. Here are a few questions I have about this important issue.

1.Throughout much of its history the earth has experienced much warmer temperatures and much higher levels of carbon dioxide. We are in the middle of earth’s fifth ice age, known as the Quaternary Period, and we are living in the Holocene epoch, an “interglacial period” (that’s right, we are living in an ice age between periods of glaciation). Global temperatures historically have been as high as 9 degrees Celsius above the current level. So why are increasing temperatures a threat to humanity?

2.If we are living in a relatively cold period of earth history isn’t global warming inevitable and consistent with earth history? Aren’t we fighting a losing battle even if we successfully cap our CO2 emissions?

3.Carbon dioxide levels have been as much as 6,000 ppm or more during earth’s history. The ideal concentration of CO2 in the environment for plants is between 1,500 ppm and 2,000 ppm -almost 4 or 5 times greater than the latest level of CO2. Are there benefits to food production and other effects of higher CO2 concentrations that counter the negative aspects more CO2 in the atmosphere? Noted Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson has said that the benefits from increased CO2 are real, measurable and immediate compared to the uncertain, far off and theoretical destructive consequences of increased CO2. Studies documented by satellite imagery have pointed out the “greening” of the earth due to increased CO2.

4.The earth’s climate is affected by multiple complex and chaotic systems. For example, we know that Milankovitch Cycles are dominant factors in long term global temperatures and climate. How sure can we be that a gas that accounts for about 0.04% of the atmosphere has a dramatic effect on global temperatures? How sensitive is the earth’s climate to different levels of CO2 and how can we be sure about CO2’s impact given the interplay of complex multiple systems that affect the earth’s climate?

5.The Vostok ice cores indicate a close correlation between global temperatures and CO2 levels, but the cores show that CO2 levels increase after temperatures increase. If some factors other than CO2 precipitated and contributed to global warming in previous times how do we know how much CO2 magnified those other factors?

6.Fossil fuels have generated relatively cheap energy that has raised the standard of living for the developed nations and offers the prospect of better standard of living for the developing nations. Initiatives like a carbon tax will make it particularly difficult to afford a modern standard of living for the poor and those living on the margins. Almost all goods produced including food are affected by energy prices. Everything will be more expensive with a carbon tax. Is the cure worse than the disease?

7.What is the ideal atmospheric concentration of CO2 and what is the ideal global temperature from the perspective of those concerned about global warming?

It would be great to have an informed and respectful dialogue about this controversy in the MRJ. Maybe the MRJ could have series of point and counterpoint op eds written by scientists from our great universities.