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Realities of climate change

Dear Editor:
Mr. de Carvalho’s column about the “fiction” of global warming seemed incomplete. For instance, he didn’t explain why glaciers are retreating and, in some cases, disappearing. I’m not buying the theory that it’s just tourists taking home souvenir blocks of ice. And those satellite photos showing the ice caps shrinking at both poles? I know he’d tell me that Al Gore messed with the lenses, but how did he do it?
I lived in Los Angeles in the late forties and early fifties and remember what the air was like. There were days when you couldn’t go to Glendale or Pasadena. You had to chew the air before it would go down your throat. Then the stupid politicians decided we should have to pay to have our trash picked up instead of burning it in backyard incinerators. Even worse, they also decided we had to take the lead out of gasoline, despite all the oil company “experts” who said that would ruin engines.
But then a funny thing happened. Air quality got substantially better. Car engines now perform better and last longer. Want to know what Los Angeles might have been like with today’s population and vehicle density? Watch the TV news when they show a really bad day in Beijing. And thank the politicians who passed those inconvenient laws and regulations. They may have been the same bureaucratic hacks that made us quit insulating our houses with asbestos.
Mr. de Carvalho makes the valid point that carbon dioxide is good for plants. But the only relevance of that is that plants absorb carbon dioxide, removing it from the air. That’s why it’s alarming to see the deforestation of much of the Amazon basin and Africa. Less absorption means more pollution. The idea that if it’s good for plants it also should be good for humans doesn’t fly. I don’t know if a heavy diet of carbon dioxide would keep you as healthy as a plant, but it’s quite likely to give you a comparable brain activity level. And the only upside of that is you’d be eligible for the Tea Party.
What is really exciting about carbon dioxide is that scientists are working on ways to use it to grow algae that can be a source of clean energy, solving two problems at once. But do you think this work would be conducted without political impetus and stimulus?
The Icelandic volcanic explosion deposited ash in Britain and Europe. The explosion of Krakatoa went around the world. Debris from the Japanese tidal wave is showing up in Oregon. Can you believe pollutants aren’t? Climatologists can look at ocean temperatures and jet stream patterns to predict the size and tracks of hurricanes. Climate is an international event and an international problem. It is natural that international bodies become important parts of solutions, but there will always be leaders who determine what those solutions will be. We have the means if we also have the will.
The only problem I have with President Obama’s climate views is that I wish he’d quit using the words “clean coal.” Having lived my first 12 years in a house with a coal furnace, I can tell you there’s no such thing. I would compare the benefit of “clean coal” over common coal to be like falling out of a fifth story window instead of a tenth story. You’re just as dead but the autopsy is less messy.
David Mathews
Downey

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Published: Aug. 1, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 16



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