It was predictable that Professor Nebert’s well-reasoned letter (Mailbag, Dec. 29) should generate a knee-jerk reaction from members of the academic community heavily invested in the alarmist view of climate change. Professor Coblentz (Jan. 8) vilified his statements as “myopic “ and “sophomoric.” However, they are historically verifiable, and to say they are not is to deny the easily accessible record.
Since the end of the “little ice age,” the mean planetary temperature appears to have risen by more than a degree Celsius. How much of this rise is due to the 40% increase in CO2 is unknown.
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During this period the frequency and destructiveness of extreme weather events has not increased. The frequency of destructive tornadoes has actually decreased. As the increase in energy due to warmer air is more than compensated by the decrease in the temperature contrast between the poles and tropics, there is no reason to fear a catastrophic increase in storms. Additionally, there is no evidence that we are approaching a “tipping point”; the planet has been far warmer in past geologic times.
The fear that a modest increase in temperature will result in the spread of diseases commonly associated with the tropics into the temperate zone is likewise exaggerated. The devastating yellow fever outbreaks in the U.S. just before 1800 killed many thousands, and temperatures were certainly not higher than today. It was the lack of modern immunization, sanitation and vector control that made the difference, and this is the case today for most so-called tropical diseases.
David S. Twining