After New Times conservative columnist Al Fonzi, his New Times sparring partner, Michael Latner, noted that he would decline the pleas of readers to refute Mr. Fonzi's arguments. Latner opined that studies have shown that "additional facts will not cure Mr. Fonzi of his delusions," ("The struggle continues," June 15).
Welcome, frustrated New Times readers! What Mr. Latner won't do, I will. Here's why: I don't doubt that studies have shown what Latner says they have shown, but when Fonzi, Latner, and I set fingers to keyboards, we are engaged in the same enterprise: adducing arguments in support of our positions in order to persuade as many people as possible. Persuading Mr. Fonzi is not the point. If, as Mr. Latner has it, his co-pundit is making delusional claims, bristling with scientific citations, and the names of official arbiters of fact, that's a problem. Statistically, there have to be some folks out there who read Mr. Fonzi's intimations that the International Panel on Climate Change now says that climate change is no big deal, and gratefully latch on to such claims. Doubt is
As has been pointed out elsewhere, fully 90 percent of Fonzi's piece is genuinely not worth responding to, as it consisted of rapping the knuckles of rich people who, while arguing that climate change is real and a threat, live in big houses and avail themselves of current modes of transportation to get where they need to go.
Other than that, Fonzi claims:
Media scream, "Rising sea levels will flood our cities," but the data says sea level rise has been roughly consistent at about one-eighth of an inch per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
Here's what else NOAA says:
"Global sea level has been rising over the past century, and the rate has increased in recent decades. In 2014, global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average—the highest annual average in the satellite record (1993-present) sea levels will likely rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century. ... Higher sea levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, which also means more frequent nuisance flooding ... estimated to be from 300 percent to 900 percent more frequent within U.S. coastal communities than it was just 50 years
In other words: Yes, Mr. Fonzi, rising sea levels will flood our cities.
We're told the polar ice caps are melting, but according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the East Antarctic ice sheet (two-thirds of the continent) is showing no discernable trend and the Western ice sheet and
Admitting that a large chunk of Antarctica is melting would not seem to be a great argument in support of Fonzi's nothing-to-see-here position. But neither is the argument that the rest of the Antarctic is just fine. Jay Zwally,
... the data shows "little trend in the frequency" of strong-to-violent tornadoes, no trend in the frequency of tropical cyclones,
Per "Will Hurricanes Change as the World Warms?" accessible at NOAA's climate.gov site, the
And beyond that, Mr. Fonzi appears to have played fast and loose with the findings of the researchers at the International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones, who published their findings in Nature Geoscience in 2010. Per climate.gov:
"Models project there will be an increase in hurricane intensities as the climate warms over the course of this century. Though there will likely be fewer Atlantic hurricanes overall, wind speeds for the ones that do form will be about 4 percent stronger for every 1 degree Celsius increase in sea surface temperature."
The International Panel on Climate Change has also reduced by half the projected increase in global temperatures.
Mr. Fonzi pulled this one from the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC: "The rate of warming of the observed global mean surface temperature over the period from 1998 to 2012 is estimated to be around one-third to one-half of the trend over the period from 1951 to 2012."
"Even with this reduction in
And the IPCC hasn't felt a need to revise the conclusion of its Fifth Assessment Report:
"Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era driven largely by economic and population growth. From 2000 to 2010 emissions were the highest in history. Historical emissions have driven atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to levels that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years, leading to an uptake of energy by the climate system."
With the current administration slashing science funding and ordering government websites to scrub words like "climate change" and "Paris accord," climate deniers and doubters are feeling their Cheerios. Now is not the time to dismiss them with a wave of the hand. Yes, it is folly to attempt to persuade Mr. Fonzi and his hard-core ideological fellow travelers of anything they don't want to believe. But it is never
Andrew Christie fights for the environment as the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send comments through firstname.lastname@example.org.