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Originally published October 16, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 17, 2005 at 4:03 PM

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Letters to the editor

A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

Earth's climate

It's impossible to determine "The Truth"

Editor, The Times:

Not a soul alive today will ever know "The Truth" about human-induced global warming since revealing this truth would require the successful evaluations of at least three analytical impossibilities.

The first is the impossibility of the acquisition and depiction of accurate measurements of dynamic global atmospherics. Not just for the present and future, but also for the past. The Earth hosts thousands of continuously shifting regional climates and trillions of constantly fluctuating micro-climates, all of which would need to be measured and integrated. The Times' article only hints at the magnitude of this problem ["The truth about global warming," page one, Oct. 9].

The second impossibility is absence of an equivalent, human-free Earth to study as a control subject for the investigation. This is basic science for which the fanciest leading-edge models will always be an inferior substitute.

The third impossibility derives from the inerasable agenda-driven instincts of all human researchers. A condition beautifully illustrated in The Times article. A piece that oozes cherry-picked data, graphs with unlabeled axes and numerous emotional anecdotes sculpted to illustrate this week's "Truth about Global Warming."

— Bart Cannon, Seattle

We still don't know

I was stunned by the reporter's conclusion that the question is settled. I am not an atmospheric scientist, just an interested layman, but based on the books I've read on the subject, the more cogent arguments are on the side of "We still don't know enough about how the Earth's climate works."

But two things I do know are: 1) scientific consensus gets turned on its head quite regularly, and 2) those who claim to have "The Truth" are less reliable than those who claim to be looking for it.

As for the consequences of global warming, they seem likely to be beneficial. Although it is usually wiser to err on the side of caution, many economists (this year's Nobel winner Thomas Schelling among them) have pointed out that it will be vastly cheaper to ameliorate any adverse effects later than attempt to slow or halt carbon dioxide production now.

— Bill Muse, Seattle

Continuous assault

The think tanks, crank scientists and pseudo-journalists who dispute climate change with the aid of millions of corporate dollars are not just arguing the economics of the problem, as they sometimes pretend. That activity, engaging in a thoughtful discussion of politics and priorities, the wisdom of one or another course of action, could be considered honorable regardless of which side one argues from.

Rather, the mouthpieces of this administration are ignobly contesting the very science itself, using any tactic, any slipshod fiction, that might throw doubt into the public mind and so deflect the dictates of hard fact. In other words, given a public-policy debate, conservatives and this administration have decided to forgo real debate entirely to adopt instead a radical course: denying reality itself.

We who vote in the coming year must think about how to best protect ourselves and the environment by considering the reality of the present administration's continuous assault on the environment.

— Jack W. McDaniel, Seattle

Undermining science

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your special report, "The truth about global warming." For too long, the attempt by journalists to be "balanced" has given far too much attention to a few skeptics (often funded by industry), ignored scientific consensus, and misled the public into being complacent about an issue that needs to be addressed head-on.

And it's not just journalists who have dropped the ball. Stories suggest the Bush administration has intentionally undermined the science behind climate change — when, for example, in 2003, the White House pressured the EPA to alter the climate-change section in its draft Report on the Environment.

We in Seattle should applaud Mayor Greg Nickels for taking action where federal leaders have failed. This year, Nickels launched a campaign, the Climate Protection Agreement, to get mayors across the country to address global warming; more than 180 cities have signed on. Let's all in the Northwest work together to support these efforts — and to lead the way in exploring solutions to the problem of global warming.

— Kathleen Washienko, Seattle

Crisis in the making

What an attention-grabbing portion of a headline: "... The Earth is getting warmer at an alarming pace, and humans are the cause — no matter what the skeptics say." Yet in the same article, another, more-telling line is buried — "the Eocene, a period 35 million to 50 million years ago when alligators lived near the Arctic Circle and palm trees grew in Wyoming." So what humans were burning fossil fuels then and heating up the place?

You go to great lengths to support global warming, but then blame it on mankind. Are you trying to manufacture yet another crisis? The Earth has always gone through climate change. Even if we ARE causing it, so what? It has happened before, and will happen again, no matter what we do.

If we weren't burning enough fossil fuels and causing global warming, you'd be lamenting the fact that we were going to cause another ice age.

— Kevin McDowell, Monroe

The final word

Well now it's official: Every creditable scientist agrees or at least the ones author Sandi Doughton hangs out with, global warming is real and caused by us.

Of course studies that question the science are nothing more than paid advertisements by, oh the horror, BIG OIL and other fringe nut cases and have no basis in fact.

Thank goodness, I hate wading through conflicting data and points of view, Doughton's story is obviously the last and final word on the subject.

— Bruce MacPherson, Edmonds

Not a matter of opinion

Thanks for your excellent front-page story clearly explaining the current science on climate change.

The commentator Paul Krugman quipped, half-seriously, that if the president were to say the Earth is flat, many newspapers would run the story with a headline like "Shape of the Earth: differing views." Thanks for not buying into this false idea of "balance," which serves only to misinform readers in complex matters like global warming and serve powerful vested interests in the status quo.

Nonscientists need to understand that not everything is a matter of opinion; some things really are matters of well-established science and should be reported as such, which you've done admirably.

— Mike Kelly, Bainbridge Island

Effect of deforestation

One more factor that must be a significant contributor to global warming is deforestation. Over the past 200 years of population and industrial growth, rain forests that once covered 14 percent of the Earth's land surface now cover only 6 percent. When Europeans came to North America, the continent was mostly forested. Since then, most of the original forests have been logged or clear-cut.

Because trees act like the lungs of the world by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, this is one loss. In addition to the human demand for wood and wood products, forest fires take out trees, habitats and other vegetation.

If we have less than half the amount of forest when combined with massive emissions from burning gas and oil, we may have reached a tipping point.

While Sunday's article mentions the heat bubble or island of the cities, I notice that on hot summer days, driving on tree-lined roads, the forest acts like an air conditioner.

— Kathryn Keve, Suquamish

Lingering questions

Just as being able to write doesn't make one a journalist, neither does an education in a discipline of physical science make one a scientist.

Now The Times has chosen to lower itself to the level of Chicken Little journalism and has as much as told skeptics such as myself that we are absolute idiots for not being able to see the light.

Sorry folks, but my questions still need to be answered. What part does water vapor play in the greenhouse effect? In geologic time going back, say 750,000 years, where do we now compare? OK, let's just go back 2,000 years. How can anyone predict climate over the next 100 years when today's experts are so often wrong about tomorrow's weather? How can we trust a dozen scientific computer models that cannot agree among themselves?

I have many more questions that your reporter should have asked the experts. Frankly, I'm at the point of being unable trust anyone's "science." The article referenced industry-funded debunkers, yet how much government or Pew money has been spent to foster the global-warming scare? Whom can we believe?

— Dick Bergeron, Brinnon

Coffee-climate connection

The breadth of the stories on global warming is impressive. Just reading about it made my body temperature rise considerably. Then to assuage myself I went on to your lighter story, Starbucks' global expansion in China. The irony is superb!

Here is my idea of another approach to understanding global warming: Could the same map used to indicate Starbucks' penetration into China be used to correlate the rising temperatures in all the other Starbucks-infested parts of the globe? Inquiring minds want to know!

The Times' juxtaposition of these two global themes with strong Northwest roots is brilliant!

— Carla J. Teigen, Normandy Park

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