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July7, 2010

Vol. 110, No. 16

A climate response

In response to: Debating climate data

A letter of April 28 in PAW, and a longer version posted at PAW Online, purport to correct “serious errors” in the March 17 article “Temperatures Rising” by Mark F. Bernstein ’83. The signatories say: “Perhaps the most egregious error is the statement that ‘human activity has little to do with rising CO2 levels.’” In his Senate testimony of Feb. 25, 2009, cited by Bernstein, Professor William Happer *64 stated that “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased from about 280 to 380 parts per million over the past 100 years. The combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and natural gas, has contributed to the increase of CO2 ... And finally, increasing concentrations of CO2 ... will cause the Earth’s surface to warm.” What “egregious error”?

The signatories go on to specious discussion of lesser “errors.” For example, they state: “We have only the vaguest idea of CO2 concentrations as plants evolved hundreds of millions or billions of years ago.” Really! Compared to today’s 390 ppm of CO2, Wikipedia, no friend of climate heretics, quotes 1,700 ppm in the Cretaceous period (145 to 65 million years ago). Many other references give substantially higher levels. We hope PAW readers will ponder these “errors,” and draw their own conclusions about whom to trust.

The signatories conclude by deploring the “loss of objectivity exemplified by Dr. Happer’s quote about climate scientists who believe that carbon dioxide causes [dangerous] global warming.” The Bernstein article did not mention the long history of extreme statements by some climate scientists and their political supporters. James Hansen testified to Congress that those who question him are guilty of “high crimes against humanity and nature.” Robert Kennedy Jr. added: “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors.” Even traitors get touchy after a while.

William Happer *64, Robert Austin, Szymon Suckewer
Princeton University

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PAW welcomes letters on its contents and topics related to Princeton University. We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility; brevity is encouraged. As a general guideline, letters should not exceed 275 words. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to publish all letters received. Letters, articles, photos, and comments submitted to PAW may be published in print, electronic, or other forms. Write to PAW, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542; send email to paw@princeton.edu; or call 609-258-4885.