In his Thursday, Jan. 11, letter to the editor in The Westerly Sun, “Climate issue needs more, not less, debate,” Mike Latham criticized Harvey Perry for the complaint in Perry’s Sunday, Jan. 7, letter to the editor, “Sun adds to climate change confusion.” Mr. Perry states that The Sun had earlier printed an opinion by Susan Stamper Brown (“Ignore global warning alarmists,” in the Wednesday, Jan. 3, issue) that confuses global warming with ignorant and misleading commentary.
Mr. Latham made a safe assumption that Mr. Perry wanted The Sun to stop printing letters like those that Ms. Brown writes. Mr. Latham then went on a tangent where he added ignorant and misleading commentary like those of which Mr. Perry complains. After I comment on Mr. Perry’s complaint, I will get to that.
I agree with Mr. Perry that writers should present direct and factual opinions. However, this is an opinion page. The Sun does a stellar job of printing diverse opinions. I am grateful that it does. We should celebrate this small-town newspaper because it gives the public space to exercise the First Amendment. As a business, it could limit or cut the space.
Mr. Latham used the Perry letter to call for more global warming debate. He also makes dubious assertions. Would scientists silence those who disagree? Do educated people buy into unproven theories? Are these people cult-like? He offers a solution. Science believers should read bona fide experts with Ph.D.s. Then they would see what he learned while in the seventh through the ninth grades. I wonder. Could Mr. Latham look beyond what he learned or thinks he learned in grade school? Could he expand his world to a larger context? He might conclude that scientists are onto something with global warming.
He suggested we read works from his stable of Ph.D.s. I took the time to look them up. Willie Soon is an aerospace engineer. Judith Curry and Donald Easterbrook are geologists. Richard Lindzen is an atmospheric physicist. Tim Ball taught historical geography for 25 years. It is unclear if Mr. Ball has a Ph.D., Doctor of Science. They all have financial ties to the fossil fuel industry, Heartland and Exxon. All are climate science critics, prolific writers, and speakers. As far as I can tell, none are working climate scientists. Using these people to understand global warming would be like relying on a dermatologist or proctologist to treat a lifelong heart ailment.
Mr. Latham claims global warming is a mere theory, still open to debate. How can you trust the scientists when they only have a theory? I have heard the same arguments about theory in the ’60s and ’70s. Then, the scientists were wrong about the link between cancer and tobacco products. Scientists had conclusive evidence that smoking caused cancer. The tobacco industry used “experts” to plant seeds of doubt in the public mind. The scientific theory arguments used against the tobacco-cancer link are the same that global warming opponents use. Later, we learned the tobacco industry had done its own research. It knew that its products caused cancer, but waged a disinformation campaign to avoid public outcry and keep making profits. Exxon, the company that helps fund those “experts” Mr. Latham recommends, knew about global warming more than 40 years ago. Still, it funded disinformation efforts to confuse the public.
No, Mr. Latham’s panel of hired guns, and the YouTube videos, will not set us straight on global warming. They are the problem. It is this disinformation and the culture that funds them that is very wrong. This culture of misinformation lives comfortably and or makes profits at the expense of the world in which we live. Mr. Latham needs to look beyond his experts and grade school memories to first learn how the global warming debate began.
Joseph C. Sciarillo