The following letter from me appeared in the Schenectady Gazette last Saturday:
A retired engineer named Russ Wege in the December 8 Schenectady Gazette “Science is not settled on climate changes” goes over some of the known history of climate change, noting that temperature has gone down sometimes when carbon dioxide levels were rising. But are we really expected to believe that climate scientists are unaware of the history of climate change? Temperature fluctuates, and to perceive trends, one has to consider the totality of relevant data. On a time scale of hundreds of thousands of years, global temperature and carbon dioxide levels are correlated. There is evidence from many independent sources that the planet is warming (polar migration of tropical ecosystems, glacial melting, and sea level increase for example). There is convincing evidence that carbon dioxide has been increasing rapidly since the 1950s (the Keeling curve) and that this is due to the burning of fossil fuel (Suess effect). Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that causes the atmosphere to retain heat. Numerous quantitative models that are based on the known physics of carbon dioxide and other climatic factors, and that accurately model past global temperature, all predict that temperatures will rise from 2 to 5 centigrade degrees before the year 2100. Carbon dioxide is a major player in all of these models (IPCC Report).
Ecologists have taught us that the characters of biomes (such as deserts, prairies, or tropical forests) are determined by rainfall and temperature. We know that even small changes in temperature can upset an ecosystem. Thus, the whole arrangement of the biosphere could change as a result of global temperature changes. Like it or not, we depend on the current arrangement of the biosphere. The biggest cause of current global warming is our burning of fossil fuel. Mr. Wege thinks there is nothing to be done, but surely it is unwise to keep on adding to the problem.