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Letter: Skeptic wrongly downplays global warming's effects

You would expect an op-ed on climate change from the oil-industry-funded Heartland Institute to be full of misrepresentations of the science, and Isaac Orr's contribution does not disappoint ("Checking climate-change alarmist's math homework," Vi...

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You would expect an op-ed on climate change from the oil-industry-funded Heartland Institute to be full of misrepresentations of the science, and Isaac Orr's contribution does not disappoint (" Checking climate-change alarmist's math homework ," Viewpoint, Page A4, Nov 13).

I will focus on one misleading assertion. Orr says that "some climate scientists put the potential future increase at only 1.75 degrees Celsius."

He's hoping you're thinking, "That doesn't sound like much to worry about." But here's the missing context. Since we already are nearly 1 degree above the pre-industrial level, adding another 1.75 degrees puts us at 2.75 degrees C global average warming.

Temperature rises in the Arctic are two to three times higher than the global average, which would put Alaska and Greenland warming by about 7 degrees Celsius or 12 degrees Fahrenheit over this century. That's pretty warm.

We need to think about Greenland because it has a mile-thick ice sheet that could raise sea levels by 20 feet if it all melted. And it's already melting faster than climate models were predicting just a few years ago.

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Our best scientists believe that Greenland's melting likely will be irreversible when global average reaches 2 degrees C. Scientists also tell us that the Arctic permafrost has warmed to a point where massive thawing and release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane is likely within the next decade.

And that will further speed up the melting of ice and rising of sea levels.

Sea level is already rising at an accelerating rate. The critical decision we are making today, on behalf of our grandchildren (and their grandchildren), is how fast will it rise for them.

Michael Segor

San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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