Climate change is worse than writers realize

In his recent column, Jonah Goldberg wrote that Bret Stephens, in his first New York Times column, upset some climate activists and scientists by claiming that they are asking for a governmental response to climate change that is more radical than the scientific findings justify ("Columnist Stephens stirs up a climate of anger," May 6). In fact, what the activists ask for is less radical than what the science not only justifies but requires in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Mr. Stephens simply does not understand the implications of the current scientific findings. See, for instance, what Professor David Victor writes: "Even with all these efforts and promises, the world is in for a lot of global warming. The rate of bending isn't enough to stop warming at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, a widely discussed goal that will soon need revision. Emissions have risen so high and for so long that there isn't enough time to reverse course."

Global warming is a function of the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gasses) not the annual emissions (although these affect the level, at the margin). Our problem is, as Jim Hansen has said, that the current "forcing" (or energy imbalance) is equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs per day. This excess energy is raising ocean (and land and atmospheric) temperature and will continue to do so (even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, which obviously we cannot do) until our increased energy radiation into space results in "forcing" dropping to zero.

Our use of fossil fuels promises to produce the sixth mass extinction. Arguing otherwise may help sell papers, but we are putting our children in a danger they will not be able to escape.

Wilfred Candler, Annapolis

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