Letter: Focus of climate debate in wrong place

From: Tom Harris

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I am responding to the March 6 article titled “City plans to reduce pollution through smarter stoplights, walking.”

In using the term “carbon pollution,” The Republic is using doublespeak, what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.” “Carbon pollution” really means carbon dioxide (CO2), an invisible, odorless gas essential to plant photosynthesis.

This is more than just an academic point. It is an example of how misleading language has poisoned the climate debate. Calling CO2 “carbon pollution” encourages people to think of it as something dirty, like graphite or soot. Calling CO2 by its proper name would help people remember that, regardless of its role in climate change, a topic of intense debate in the science community, it is anything but pollution.

Columbus residents should understand that we are actually near the lowest level of CO2 in Earth’s history. During a multi-million-year period about 450 million years ago, CO2 was about 1,100 percent of today’s level, while Earth was stuck in one of the coldest periods of the last half-billion years. At other times, it was hot when CO2 levels were high. At still other times, it was neither unusually hot nor cold. There is no consistent correlation between CO2 levels and temperatures in the geologic record.

Besides the waste of billions of dollars and the loss of millions of jobs due to the climate scare, there’s another tragedy unfolding. As a result of the unjustified confidence that we know the future of climate and, even more outrageously, that humanity can control it, relatively little money is available to help the poor adapt to climate change today.

Of the more than $1 billion spent every day across the world on climate finance, only 6 percent is devoted to helping vulnerable societies adapt to climate change. The rest is dedicated to trying to stop climatic events that may someday happen.

This is the real climate crisis that should concern the city of Columbus.