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The Planet

October 1997, Volume 4, number 8

Is Global Warming for Real?

Editor:

Just finished reading the July/August 1997 issue of The Planet. The Earth will flood, people are dying from the heat, malaria is increasing, birds and animals are changing their habitats, storms are worse. Good grief, get a grip!

I have been a Sierra Club member since 1960 and am a climatologist. I just returned from a weather symposium studying global climate and severe weather. There is no global warming. I have stacks of papers from people studying climate change and this small warming is nothing new. It has done this before and cooled off as well. Many of today's temperatures are taken in cities; concrete, asphalt, steel and glass hold heat and temperatures at night and do not cool off as they did when these same cities were built of wood with dirt streets. Temperatures are bound to be higher today.

The United States, with its cars and trucks, is not the problem. So far this year, forest fires have burned over 967,000 acres in Alaska, 36,000 acres in California and 130,700 acres in the southwest United States. This contributes far more carbon dioxide than do fossil fuels. It has even been suggested we cut down old-growth forests as they contribute more carbon dioxide than oxygen to the atmosphere through rotting and burning. Young trees produce far more oxygen. Cut these buzzwords, "global warming," out of your vocabulary.

--Robert Gregg
Glendale, Calif. I respectfully disagree with Gregg's assertion that "there is no global warming" and that the United States, with its millions of cars and trucks, is not contributing to the problem. The consensus of the world's leading scientists is that global warming is real and already under way, and that if nothing is done temperatures could rise as much as 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the next century.

Gregg's argument that the heat-island effect of cities is an explanation for global warming is wrong. A recent National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency study based on 5,400 sites around the world found that eliminating temperature measurements from cities made no change in the record of dramatic warming that has occurred in the last 100 years.

Gregg is correct that fires and rotting vegetation contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere; the gases from these and other natural processes are what keep the Earth warm enough to support life. In the absence of human intervention, these gases remain in a balance and global temperatures remain stable. But Gregg is wrong when he states that the United States "is not the problem." Pollution from cars and power plants -- from the United States and elsewhere -- has disrupted the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; levels of carbon dioxide have risen from 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution to 360 ppm today and the subsequent rapid rise in temperature will dramatically affect the environment.

The world's leading scientists tell us that global warming is a serious threat; prudence dictates that we take steps to prevent it.

--Steve Pedery
Sierra Club Global Warming
Conservation Assistant


http://www.sierraclub.org/planet/199709/


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