Response to last week’s letter — Global Warming

As someone who has always made an effort to diligently research important social and environmental issues, I take strong offense to Paul Vanginhoven’s continuous efforts to misguide readers about the legitimacy of global warming.

  • Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:00am
  • Opinion

As someone who has always made an effort to diligently research important social and environmental issues, I take strong offense to Paul Vanginhoven’s continuous efforts to misguide readers about the legitimacy of global warming.

It has been widely reported — and accepted by almost every legitimate scientific institution, government body and peer-reviewed journal examining the issue — that global warming is occurring. Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are the highest that have been experienced (determined through sampling from Arctic and Antarctic ice core samples) in more than half a million years. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have increased 34 percent since pre-industrial times and methane levels alone have also increased 140 percent since 1908. Even the simplest mind can grasp the notion that increased greenhouse gases generated by our industrial activities, along with our accelerating deforestation of carbon-sequestering ecosystems, must result in an increasing accumulation in the atmosphere (just think back to your high school science class on ‘radiative forcing’ and the outcomes of increased carbon dioxide levels).

The preponderance of data presented — and peer reviewed in reputed journals like ‘Nature,’ ‘PNAS,’ and ‘Science,’ etc. — have shown that anthropogenic causes have definitively contributed to the acceleration of global atmospheric temperatures. On the contrary, anti-warming reactionaries like Vanginhoven are continually unable to provide any compelling evidence that global warming has not contributed to atmospheric CO2 accumulations. While some independent critics continue to stubbornly reject global warming, supporting evidence continues to emerge and even a reluctant Bush administration — one of the staunchest opponents of global warming — has now acknowledged publicly that the issue needs to be addressed.

Skeptics like Vanginhoven frequently bring up Richard Lindzen as an authority on the subject. What they neglect to mention is that Lindzen is a de facto coal and gas industry lobbyist, funded in part by Exxon, Western Fuels and OPEC. In fact, it should be noted that Vanginhoven also places his faith in a man who has also publicly downplayed the dangers of smoking and doubted the link between smoking and lung cancer. It should also be noted that the National Center of Policy Analysis’ climate change report (also referenced by Vanginhoven) was authored by two philosophy majors who have no academic background in science. Their report was also never peer-reviewed, nor published, in any boni-fide scientific forum. Clearly, Vanginhoven draws from some very marginal sources to support his arguments.

At the very worst, a failure to acknowledge the facts about global warming can even be considered as a form of economic ‘racism.’ In that capacity, it’s not altogether surprising that the majority of organizational skeptics, like the Heartland Institute and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, align themselves with the extreme conservative movement.

While some skeptics like Vanginhoven and Richard Lindzen will very likely never feel the full impact of global warming (due to their relative wealth and economic mobility), many of the most impoverished and immediately susceptible communities (Indonesia and the South Pacific, Africa, the Ganges River and Mekong River Deltas) are also home to some of the world’s poorest residents — who are frequently on the front line of calamities such as starvation, drought, desertification, flooding and extreme weather conditions resulting from changing weather patterns.

Even here in North America, the frontline victims of extreme weather patterns caused by global warming, changing ocean currents and gradually raising sea levels, will be those living along the economically repressed areas along the Gulf Coast and Mexico. To deny the underlying cause of many of these disasters — or to hinder efforts to address these very real matters — is to disregard the safety and welfare of residents living in the worlds most poor and vulnerable locations.

Fortunately, our most important audience — the students and youth who will lead our society in the future — possess the wherewithal to see through the misguided skepticism of people like Lindzen, Vanginhoven and other conservative rejectionists. If left unaddressed, our next generation will be the ones who will be forced to face the increased consequences (both economic and moral) resulting from global warming. To their credit, our schools and many of our progressive leaders understand and are addressing/educating the public about the very real implications of global warming. The trend seems to be that more and more people are listening and that stronger actions will continue to be taken to address these potential challenges, before they escalate.

To conclude, let me apply the logic of French philosopher Blaise Pascal (the proverbial ‘precautionary principal’) to the contemporary matter of global warming — that … “even though some may doubt that global warming is occurring, one should wager as if global warming is occurring, since living so has potentially everything to gain and certainly nothing to lose.” It would be prudent for astute readers to conduct their own research on global warming — and to recognize that shrill complicity is simply an impotent response to the very real visible impact of climate change.

A. Michael Kundu, of Marysville, is the founder of Project Seawolf and can be reached at

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