A letter from a reader about The crucial issue for climate change

July 22, 2007:

For some reason – maybe because I'm neither a scientist nor a professor – I am completely unable to understand S. Fred Singer *48 (letters, April 4) when he says that "The crucial issue is to establish [whether] current warming is natural or human-caused."

How so? The crucial issue is whether global warming is real and has potentially catastrophic consequences for civilized mankind. Should we take solace in the fact that it was alternately a lot colder, and a lot hotter, millenniums ago, when there were no civilized humans to suffer the consequences? If a giant asteroid were about to collide with Earth and eradicate all human life, would we be reassured that, after all, it wasn't our fault?

  Indeed, whether or not we feel confident that we can successfully reverse catastrophic global warming isn't, relatively, a very important question, either. Given a dire threat, wouldn't we have to do our best to solve the problem, even if we were pessimistic about our chances for success? (Again, wouldn't we, perhaps literally, take our best shot at that onrushing killer asteroid, even if we expected to fail?)

  We need to be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the global warming threat is real and the consequences catastrophic; at that point, we'll need to take our most promising course of action, and then hope for the best. (Admittedly, if we did contribute greatly to the problem, that knowledge might well help us find effective solutions.) The strategy is simple; the implementation is incredibly difficult.

And if it eventually becomes clear, as Princeton is slipping under the waves, that we humans actually had nothing to do with it, we can always mount a class-action lawsuit against Mother Nature.

Murrells Inlet, S.C.


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