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Getting warm under the collar

(CHRIS VAN ES ILLUSTRATION)

IF HE had been an op-ed columnist in the 1950s, I wonder what Jeff Jacoby would have written when evidence began mounting that cigarettes were injurious to smokers' health ("Hot tempers on global warming," Aug. 15). As are the effects of greenhouse gases, the health effects of smoking are delayed for a number of years.

As tobacco manufacturers did then, many of the emitters of greenhouse gases today vehemently deny the case for global warming in order to protect their financial position.

Should we wait to act until we can convince every naysayer of the connection between greenhouse gases and the rising sea levels, adverse weather patterns, and higher rates of diseases related to climate change?

I wonder how many lives would have been saved if the tobacco companies had not put up such a fight to deny the dangers of smoking.

DREW PROZELLER
Sudbury

AS A chemist I must reply to Jeff Jacoby's op-ed. This is a pertinent opinion piece that I agree with.

Many people who are extremists on either side of the issue tend to be zealots who mostly have no science or technical background. They tend to support their position on a "feeling" rather than on scientific evidence.

All theories in science are always open to scrutiny. This is what science is all about.

Scientists debate factual differences in a logical manner. Until the proper evidence is presented with appropriate scientific evidence, it is not accepted.

The earth has had short cooling and warming trends within warming and cooling eras. This is the part that uninformed zealots fail to recognize.

My mind is open; are theirs?

GARY J. BANUK
Hanson

JEFF JACOBY courageously denounces the hysterical groupthink so prominent in the crusade against global warming. I am a global-warming skeptic -- not of the science of climate change (for I have no expertise to judge it), but of combating climate change with increased government power.

Al Gore, Robert Kennedy Jr., and too many others dismiss the downside of curtailing capitalism in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. They write and speak as if the material prosperity that capitalism brings is either not threatened by increased government power, or is of only small importance when compared to the threat of global warming.

Truly reasonable people are, and ought to be, skeptical of each of these dogmas.

DONALD J. BOUDREAUX
Fairfax, Va.

The writer is chairman of the department of economics at George Mason University.

I READ with interest Jacoby's thoughts on the global warming "debate." I am curious about his thoughts on creationism. There are those who believe that any mention of evolution should allow equal space for consideration of creationism. Perhaps he would like to apply a similar policy to global warming, in which any article about rising ocean levels could be accompanied by an article asserting that the planet's ice mass is not melting, and that the rising sea levels are instead attributable to -- ah, there's the rub.

DOROTHY DRENNEN
Waltham AS SOON as I saw the term "global warming" under Jeff Jacoby's name Wednesday morning, I said, "Uh oh, here we go."

Jacoby misses the point of the Newsweek article, which was not to engage the scientific debate -- something Jacoby could easily do in many venues if he had the inclination (start with realclimate.org) -- but to expose those who have poisoned that debate.

As the Newsweek piece demonstrates, the well-funded denial movement has not led with science to form policy, but rather has led with ideology and self-interest to twist and corrupt the science and thereby stall action.

For Jacoby to miss this simple point and then to patronizingly lecture us on the fundamental nature of scientific debate is as pathetic as it is laughable.

Jacoby should stick to subjects he knows something about. Climate change and environmental science, he proves again, are way over his head.

GEORGE STUBBS
Melrose

WITH ALL due respect to Jeff Jacoby and his fellow global warming skeptics, there is a solid rationale for treating skepticism and doubt as heresy.

It can be conveyed in three points:

First, climate change is complex. This means that the vast majority of Americans base their entire belief on a skim of headlines.

Second, a relatively small number of skeptics, whether paid by oil interests or not, have fostered a widespread sense of uncertainty that has almost neutralized our ability to react. This is a problem because, unlike in the movies, the disastrous consequences of global warming cannot simply be averted by a last-second heroic act.

Third, to those of us who have taken the hours necessary to understand the irrefutable evidence supporting a need to act now -- well, to us, humanity is in a crowded theater, the vast majority of our independent experts are telling us that there is a fire behind the curtain, and yet we're encouraged by a few to keep our seats.

ROGER SHAMEL
President,
Global Warming Education Network

Lexington

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