This exchange appeared in the Methodist Recorder, 31 Mar 17 and afterwards, and is republished here by permission of the editor and Howard Curnow. There are minor edits for clarity where necessary.
......Your recent article in Methodist Recorder about Fiji and climate change included the statement "With diminishing arctic ice cover, sea level rises caused the first Pacific islands to disappear under water last year". This is factually incorrect, in that neither an increase nor a decrease in arctic ice cover can itself cause any change in sea level; a direct result of the Archimedes Principle.
Further, the article claimed "Extreme weather events such as hurricanes and cyclones are becoming more frequent across the world as a result of climate change." Such sweeping statements are often made, but there is really very little evidence to support them.
Several times in this article, the expression 'climate change' is used in ways which suggest that climate change is fairly new (and implicit in the use is the suggestion that it would not be happening if it were not for the activities of human beings). In reality, climate change has been around for as long as the earth, and there is no climate "norm" from which the climate has deviated over recent decades.
Carbon dioxide may be a greenhouse gas but, in the atmosphere, it is in much lower concentratiion than water vapour (another greenhouse gas) so it can hardly be self-evident that all recent climate change is down to carbon dioxide. Neither is it proven that cutting carbon dioxide emissions will result in the climate returning to that (non-existent) norm of pre-industrial times.
The end of the article referred to a "block of teaching on global warming and climate change". One hopes the teaching was more balanced and more accurate than Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and that the children realised that, far from being a pollutant, carbon dioxide is an essential for life. (HC)
Reply, from Rev. Richard Parkes:
Howard Curnow's letter is like crime in multi-storey car parks. Wrong on so many levels.
To correct just two errors: First, sea levels are rising. This is partially due to glacial melt. And here, Howard is half right - sea glaciers melting won't affect the sea level. But the glaciers flowing from the Antarctic land mass are speeding up, as are glaciers in Greenland, and that will affect the sea level. The other drive behing rising sea levels is that above 40C, water becomes less dense. As the sea warms up, it expands and sea levels must inevitably rise.
Secondly, again Howard is half right. Water vapour is a greenhouse gas. But it stays in the atmosphere for hours and days. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
Like Howard, I do not want climate change caused by humans to be true. Unlike Howard, having seen the evidence, I am forced to accept that it is true. This demands action.
Reply from Howard Curnow: Doing nothing may be a wiser option
I would like to respond to the Rev. Richard Parker. First, I think he missed the point I was trying to make in my first paragraph. The article I referred to gave the impression that it was diminishing "arctic ice cover" - an expression I took (naturally I think) to refer to the sea ice in the Arctic ocean - which was the direct cause of sea rises in the Pacific ocean. My ;point was that melting sea ice couldn't cause sea level rises, although this was the impression given by the original article.
Second, the fact that water vapour, in the form of a particular cloud, stays in the atmospherefor hours or days only is irrelevant. How long a particular molecule of water remains in the atmosphere is no more important than how long a particular molecule of carbon diioxide does - it is how many of each which will determine whatever effect they may have on climate.
Unlike Richard Parker, the evidence I have seen does not convince me that it is human beings who are causing climate change, nor that human beings can reverse the changes. In Richard's opinion, the evidence demands action. In some ways this seems to me like a politician's response to a problem: "We must do something". There are times when "doing something" adds to the problem; times when doing nothing is a wiser optiion.
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