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June 27, 2013

Letter: Climate change a human, not political issue

To the editor:

The letter on climate change by Anthony Marolda (the Times, Wednesday, May 29) again obfuscates the potential tragedy facing our world if we continue to refuse to take this problem seriously.

Climate change is real and is happening: ask Native Americans in Alaska who all agree that their ice comes in four weeks later in the fall and leaves four weeks earlier in the spring. Ask the mariners who can now sail through sea passages north of Canada as well as north of Russia that may be totally ice-free by 2030.

Ask the Swiss, whose glaciers are melting faster than ever. Ask the scientists working in Antarctica, who not only see their glaciers recede, but also many of their penguin species declining in numbers because of less sea-ice which leads to less krill, which live on the underside of sea ice, and are one of the penguins’ main food sources.

CO2 particles in the atmosphere as measured in Hawaii at the Mauna Loa Observatory (measured there since 1958 because Hawaii is so far from large concentrations of humanity) hit 400 ppm (parts per million) on May 4 — the first time that number was reached since the Pliocene epoch four million years ago. (”Economist” magazine, May 11, 2013).

Could climate change be partly cyclical and partly human caused? Of course. Do we know what percentage may be attributed to each? No.

When asked this question during my World Affairs Seminars aboard HollandAmerica ships, I always respond with a smoking analogy: if a person smokes, especially heavily, are they assured of getting cancer? No. Are the chances higher that they will experience that disease? Of course.

And it is the same with climate change. As more people world-wide rise into the middle classes of their country, they want all the goodies we have been getting: Beijing alone puts some 2,000 new cars on its roads every day. China now has a middle class of 400 million people, India one of 300 million people, and Brazil’s population of 200 million is now over 50 percent middle class. Doing that math is not hard.

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