December 26, 2009


Letters to the Editor and other People Speak

FROM- Knoxville News

It's OK to be skeptical of climate change

James Leitnaker,
Citizen's Voice

"Climategate" has been discovered by the News Sentinel - about two weeks after other news organizations. But it responded with poo-poo articles, reporting the "consensus" via quotes from well known proponents of man-caused global warming.

Some years ago, maybe 30, I heard a lecture during which was shown a plot of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere versus the average earth's temperature. There was obviously a strong correlation.

But teachers of courses about statistics always caution care in cause-effect conclusions from interesting correlations. More than 60 years ago, my statistics professor told the class that the most perfect natural correlation ever found was that between the amount of money spent on wines, beers and liquors and the amount of money paid to teachers since the start of the country. The figure was 0.98; a perfect correlation is 1.0. A professor at the University of Tennessee told me that the birthrate in countries in which the stork is indigenous is higher than in other countries. Storks bring babies?

Some of us are old enough to remember reports from climatologists in the 1970s about a coming ice age. But, about the same time, someone saw the aforementioned CO2-Earth temperature plot. We didn't need to worry about the ice age.

But then, disregarding the warming effect of CO2, a "consensus" grew up that we didn't need nuclear power because we had enough coal to supply electric power and other heating for hundreds of years. Nuclear power fell into disfavor.

Memory can be a tricky thing. What should I believe?

It does seem to me that there is very strong evidence that the earth is warming. Is the effect caused by man's activities? That is, is atmospheric moisture a much stronger greenhouse contributor than carbon dioxide and the latter is only a blip in the equation?

But assume that CO2 is the culprit. What are the economic effects of cutting off the burning of fossil fuels? Could these be worse than allowing the carbon dioxide to continue to do its dastardly job? At least some economists think there are lots better ways to spend money, if what I read in the Wall Street Journal is correct.

Those of us who don't see as clearly as the News Sentinel folks naturally wonder about these questions. I guess I'll have to wait until the Roane County News weighs in on this whole problem.

James M. Leitnaker, a 40-year resident of East Tennessee, has a doctorate in physical chemistry from the University of Kansas. He lives in Kingston with his wife of 64 years.


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