Contrary to Steve Singleton's claims (see letters from Dec. 18 and Jan. 8), there is overwhelming evidence that the CO2 released by humans is causing harmful climate change. Carbon dioxide's ability to trap heat (the greenhouse gas effect) has been well documented and there are many quantitatively measured signs of rapid and recent global climate change, such as a rise in air and ocean temperatures, a decline of sea and glacial ice, an increase in sea level, and a rise in the frequency of extreme weather events.
These changes are indisputable and inextricably tied with global increases in industry and the consequent generation of carbon dioxide by processes such as deforestation, burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon sequestered in soils. Carbon dioxide levels and global temperature have fluctuated throughout the Earth's history, yet -- according to NASA's Global Climate Change website (climate.nasa.gov) -- since the Industrial Revolution carbon dioxide levels have been on a steady incline and are now 92 ppm higher than ever before in the past 650,000 years. Global temperatures have increased by an average of 1.5 degrees since 1880. The IPCC's 2007 Climate Change Assessment Report states that since the 1970s there has been a rapid rise in global temperatures, which scientific models have shown cannot be accounted for by any factor other than human activity.
Mr. Singleton makes the interesting claim that "CO2 -- a byproduct of civilization -- is beneficial to the planet." (Jan 8) Even disregarding all evidence of carbon dioxide's role in anthropogenic climate change, byproducts of civilization rarely if ever benefit the planet. Pollution, deforestation, erosion and extinction are just a few of the detrimental effects of industry on the Earth. Civilization creates a ripple effect that upsets every aspect of the Earth's delicate equilibrium.
Mr. Singleton also claims that addressing climate change will "cripple economies." Yet the struggle against climate change can actually advance economic growth. The need for clean energy and other climate change solutions can promote innovation and create jobs in new markets.
Anthropogenic climate change is a frightening concept, but denying it is counterproductive and ultimately harmful. Its denial is simply a fear of accepting the consequences of our actions as humans, and of the difficult choices and changes that must ultimately come.