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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Mr. Cockburn: Did someone suggest that you give up your automobile? Carbon dioxide emissions may need to be more or less regulated, but that has little to do with the body of inconvertible evidence of global change, of which greenhouse gases are a contributing factor. Further, the EPA program to fine polluters as a regional or state block seems to have been working.

There is virtually no credible scientific opposition to global warming and climate change. Rather, the problem is that related research such as greenhouse gases takes on the mantle of fear while not being as bedrock as ice core evidence.

Nonetheless, it is quite clear, without even resorting to citing a study, that higher atmospheric temperatures that result from trapped greenhouse gases increase the likelihood of loss of the glacial ice sheets and a hotter ocean implying rising ocean levels. Admittedly, there is a certain amount of manufactured hysteria by some researchers that hope their lowly basic research may qualify for greater funding opportunities if it has something to do with climate change rather than simply ocean circulation or whether CFCs are localized over Antarctica or in the global air stream. See this web page and this one for more exciting and depressing climate news.

What is your so-called far-sighted plan, more belching of acid rain and two SUVs in every garage across the globe?

Katherine L Whitefield

Annandale, VA

Jul 27 2007 - 10:42am

Web Letter

In the movie Erik the Viking, Terry Jones plays a character named King Arnulf, who in spite of his island nation sinking into the sea along with virtually everyone else who inhabits it, continues to deny that the island is in fact sinking. He continues his denials even as the waves close in over his head, drowning him.

This is similar to what the otherwise sensible Mr. Cockburn is doing: denying a catastrophe even as the signs of it are all around him. If there is no such thing, if the Earth is simply going through a normal temperature change and there is nothing to worry about, then why has the UN issued a damning report citing the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing the planet to heat up to unprecedented historical levels with emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere, as reported by media outlets ranging from NPR to Reuters? Why is China's government officially recognizing the daily effects of the human-caused climate change?

Why, if this is all just a big hoax, is the scientific community in pretty much full agreement on what's happening and who is to blame?

Finally, if there are so many scientists out there who disagree with the data proving that yes, the planet is warming up and quickly--and mostly if not all because of human industrial activity, where are they? Why aren't more of them stepping up to the plate with their own evidence? I submit that the reason they're not is because few credible scientists exist now who don't believe the evidence in front of their eyes.

Mr. Cockburn, instead of imitating King Arnulf you might want to consider re-reviewing the massive amount of evidence that this planet is going through man-made temperature increases.

Michael Kwiatkowski

Cleveland, OH

Jun 7 2007 - 12:59pm

Web Letter

While many complain of Mr. Cockburn's distrust of the global warming consensus, and according to the publishers have canceled their subscriptions. I am on the other hand a new subscriber who finally decided that your magazine does indeed produce first quality journalism and is truly iconoclastic in large part due to Mr. Cockburn's articles. I have noted that in both the NY Times and Der Spiegel that they too, despite being strong proponents of global warming, have begun to have some questions about the objectivity of the scientific proponents.

I note that both sides tend to gravitate toward the hysterical. A desire to listen to all theories and not to foreclose any question is the hallmark of science. The emotional refusal to even consider any counter arguments is the hallmark of prejudice. It bothers me more than a little that such a significant discussion may profit the world and yet damage that scientific institution on which all this depends.

Michael Scott

Edmond, OK

Jun 6 2007 - 2:35pm

Web Letter

How wonderful it must be to pontificate like Alexander Cockburn without having to first satisfy the demands of peer review. Luckily for all of us, this is not how science works. The present state of global warming science, as summarized by the IPCC, is the product of over 100 years of investigation by professional skeptics (i.e., scientists).

The theory of global warming was first proposed by Svante Arrenhius in 1896, based upon the work of French mathematician Joseph Fourier and British physicist John Tyndall. When Keeling and Revelle demonstrated in the early 1960s that CO2 was building up in the atmosphere, scientists made predictions about what would happen as the earth's radiative balance was altered. Higher temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, altered distribution of biota, melting glaciers, and breaking up of ice shelves. These predictions are now coming true, and they pose an intergenerational threat to the well being of humanity.

As the earth continues to warm, scientists predict that we will reach a point in the middle of this century where (1) warming permafrost will result in the release of CO2 from artic and boreal soils, introducing a positive feedback loop that will drive climate change independent of all mitigation attempts by humans, and (2) the disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet (and a concomitant 20 ft. sea level rise) is inevitable.

We can take steps now to stop this, or bank on the chance that the world's scientific community (that has got it right to this point) is wrong. Mr. Cockburn's position seems to be that we should take the gamble.

I fail to see how anybody could believe that in 2007 a magazine columnist could come up with a new interpretation of physical evidence that has eluded professional scientists for decades.

This proposition is ludicrous...and the editors of The Nation should be ashamed for promoting it.

Andrew Gunther

Oakland, CA

Jun 6 2007 - 1:19pm

Web Letter

Help! Will someone please stop Alexander Cockburn before he murders reason another time? I have always been a faithful reader of Cockburn in The Nation and I am a CounterPunch subscriber, but have we not had enough serial murders on this subject already?

Bob, a friend of mine for more than fifteen years, is a working meteorologist and for most of this time he has expressed scepticism whenever I have raised questions about global warming. His grounds are that global weather cycles are measured in millennia, not decades, and changes we perceive are mere hiccups in prevailing patterns. A few years ago, however, Bob started to exhibit hesitancy before delivering his mantra. Now he has dropped it altogether and openly discusses the likelihood of apocalyptic conditions about to happen. His change in attitude came about due to the overwhelming evidence that is building that hiccups cannot explain the dramatic climate changes that we are witnessing. It is happening to quickly for that. The rate of change is unprecedented.

Bob is not one of Cockburn's "greenhousers" but rather a trained meteorologist and rigorous thinker who is stubborn and unyielding when an "amateur" like myself draws uninformed conclusions from the news of the day. Bob, for me, is "strike one" against the global warming deniers.

"Strike two" is climatologist Professor Stephen Schneider, the author of The Patient from Hell, a book mostly about decision-making processes. In it, Professor Schneider writes:

In climate change we never have certain answers, we know that we're going to warm up, we know we've already done that. We know we're going to warm up somewhere from another degree if we're incredibly lucky up to more than five if we're incredibly unlucky so I'm always advising people on precautionary principles. You know there's only 1% chance your house will burn down and almost everybody has fire insurance and we're looking at 50% chances of serious outcomes.

Recent essays by Jason Podur for Znet, "Global Warming Suspicions and Confusions," and by Louis Proyect, "Alexander Cockburn's 'experts'," deal respectively with Cockburn's prejudices and dodgy experts. Strike three.

May we please have a cease and desist policy on this subject? Cockburn's contrarian tenacity is wonderful on subjects worthy of the effort, but stubbornness can be a two-edged sword. He has had his turn at bat on global warming. It is time to move on and to let others move up to the plate.

A Whitten

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jun 4 2007 - 7:59pm

Web Letter

Alexander Cockburn's articles on climate change are extremely edifying. Having no strong opinion for or against global warming, I've checked his references. Interesting people! What I've learned has certainly changed my opinions on global warming--and my opinion of Cockburn's judgment.

Peter Eggenberger

Oakland , CA

Jun 3 2007 - 2:16am

Web Letter

Mr. Cockburn is absolutely on the mark.

The IPCC wants it both ways. On one hand they claim to make no predictions about future warming. This would be a wholly appropriate stance toward modeling a complex and non-linear system like global climate. All scenarios have an equal probability of occurring. To assign a greater degree of certainty to one scenario over another requires quantifiable data.

Yet the IPCC continues to issue statements of great certainty that the warming is anthropogenic and that things can only get warmer unless we act.

Science demands that if something has been proven the results must be published to allow other scientists or interested observers to see if they can replicate the work. And from what has been examined coming out of the IPCC it's clear that their organization would benefit greatly by sending a few of their own back to grad school to learn some basic statistical method.

Eric Kassouf

Santa Monica, CA

Jun 2 2007 - 8:06pm

Web Letter

June 1, 2007

Bush oil fox guarding the planet-warming hen house,
With a statute of liberty play,
Think kaching, kaching, kaching.

Andreas Daniel Fogg

Somerville, MA

Jun 1 2007 - 1:57am

Web Letter

Mr. Cockburn tries again to refute that the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is due to human activities.

The reason that the amount of carbon-13, in the atmosphere, has been declining is due to the the introduction of new carbon from deep underground since the beginning of the industrial age at about 1750. This carbon has been buried for millions of years and is additive to the carbon exchange between the atmosphere and living things, land and surface ocean waters, that have been going long before the industrial revolution.

Mr. Cockburn is correct in saying that the amount of the Earth's carbon dioxide bound in fossil fuels is relatively small, but it is cumulative over the centuries. The carbon in the atmosphere in 1750 was about 560 gigatons. It is now about 800 gigatons, an increase of more than 40 percent.

In addition, fossil fuels are a commercial product and there are good estimates of how much carbon has been burned. The CO2 increase is consistent with this amount.

Mr. Cockburn in spite of his protests is still wrong on this point.

Lawrence Brown

New York, NY

May 31 2007 - 3:47pm

Web Letter

I love these cliff-hangers! But each new one needs a snappy intro to sum up the thrills and spills from earlier in the series! The following would serve this purpose for the next, exciting episode of (dramatic pause) "Beat the Devil"!!!

Our story so far: Against all odds, Martin Hertzberg, PhD, a meteorologist for three years in the Navy, an occupation that gave him a lifelong mistrust of climate modeling, his implacable guillotine blade of reality as infallible as Papal dogma, having yet to be intimidated into silence by the pressures of grants, tenure and kindred academic garrotes, soldiers on! Meanwhile, however, by the straightforward chicanery of misrepresenting tree ring data, the apex fearmongers spawn growing legions of scientists now born again to the "truth" that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the earth's warming trend, and becoming foot soldiers in the alliance of the government-funded, grant-guzzling climate modelers! These political shock troops of the greenhousers' catechism form an army of functionaries and grant farmers led by the world's best-known hysteric and self-promoter, Dr. Michael "Hockey Stick" Mann! Financed by Lombroso, they and their Internationale, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, exploit the usual incentives of stipends and professional ego to waterboard inconvenient data into submission, reflexively squawking primitive rhetorical pandybats, abusive comments and supposed refutations to scurrilously combine an acoustic intimation of nihilism with a suggested affinity to those who insist the Holocaust never took place, and cashing in their carbon indulgences, if need be, to torch any and all heretics! Our hero's only hope lies in staying offline, in Russia, flying thither over the Arctic, in direct view of the ice cap! [Cue the organ!]

Tom Moody

Revere, MA

May 30 2007 - 6:06am

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