Your Opinion: Building consensus on climate change

Dear Editor:

The headline on page A5 on Feb. 21 summed up much of the discussion we’ve seen in this paper recently: World had fourth warmest January as eastern U.S. froze. All the warmer Januaries were this century. Still, the same day, we have a local opinion letter saying that warming may have stopped altogether, and those who say otherwise are being dishonest.

One globally hot month doesn’t prove global warming any more than a few local cold days debunk it. But go to the complete report, www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc, and you will learn that January was globally the 38th consecutive January and 347th consecutive month (almost 29 years) with a global temperature above the 20th century average.

I don’t understand how anyone could look at the global temperature data since 1880 and see anything but a warming trend. There was a huge spike in 1998, a freakishly hot year because of El Niño, but 2010 was clearly hotter.

So when nearly all the climate scientists warn us that we should reduce carbon pollution or our only planet will change faster than most species can adapt, and faster than civilization can economically adapt, I think it makes sense to reduce carbon emissions. And I’m not alone; a September 2013 Pew Research poll found that 65 percent of Americans favor stricter emission limits on power plants to address climate change. Amazing considering the hundreds of millions that the fossil-fuel industry spends funding climate denial propaganda.

Headline on Feb. 23, page A6: Supreme Court climate case eyes EPA’s power. Industry groups and Republican-led states are heading an attack against efforts to limit emissions of gases blamed for global warming. Who are they representing?

My hope is that we can have a wide range of disagreement about climate change but still agree on what we should do. We don’t need a forecast warning with 95 percent certainty that Jefferson City will be hit by a string of tornadoes before we buy homeowners insurance. A carbon fee would reduce emissions, working like an insurance policy to protect us from climate change. Refund the revenue to households and the premium is free for most families and marginal for the rest. Cleaner air and water is a bonus.

The goal is to make the cost of polluting expensive, not the cost of living. Call me an optimist for believing that is possible, but don’t call me dishonest.

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