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Climate Change

February 19, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 8

Oswald Bergmann denies scientific data by his belief that the simple laws of blackbody radiation are sufficient to describe the climate of the entire planet (C&EN, Oct. 23, 2006, page 4). As a reader from Europe, I am frequently amazed at the controversy that is currently raging in the U.S.

When it was shown in the 1980s that ozone was depleted by the use of CFCs, the production of these chemicals was strictly controlled in Western countries. Of course, however, there were people, many from the company that made the CFCs, who denied the harmful effect of these chemicals. The U.S. was at the forefront of this legislation and yet, at the moment, nothing relevant is happening with respect to CO2 emissions, though the data are just as solid.

The proposed measures to slow climate change also become increasingly dubious; no one believes that Paul J. Crutzen's commentary (fine dust as a solar shield) is a serious plan. He wrote this both as a theoretical consideration and as a general means to create a stir.

A simple analogy with respect to our dumping of CO2: Suppose astronomers discover a large asteroid and calculate that there is a 0.1% chance of its hitting Earth and causing global mayhem within the next 10 years. A public outcry would rise to immediately come up with and execute plans to deflect or destroy this thing. Although no one can say for sure what will happen with the enhanced greenhouse effect, I think it is reasonable to say that the chance of catastrophe is at least as big as in the previous analogy.

Friso SikkemaNijmegen, the Netherlands



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