Science or sensationalism?

by: TOM BAKER, A hydrologist quoted in the Feb. 16 story said earlier snowmelt and heavy rains already are causing problems. A landslide on Southwest Cardinell Road crushed two cars last winter (left), and landslides have again been in the news this month.

The Portland Tribune's Feb. 16 story 'Life could worsen by degrees' caused a sensation on our Web site,

We received quite a few letters covering both sides of the global warming issue. What follows is a selection of public opinion that speaks to the range of views on the controversial topic.

Tribune shows some shades of Enquirer

At first, I wondered if I had picked up a copy of the National Enquirer and not the Portland Tribune when I saw the headline 'Life could worsen by degrees' in the Feb. 16 issue.

As I started to read the article I was even less impressed.

Not only did the reporter mimic 'junk' science, he quoted an 'associate professor in mechanical engineering and materials engineering' on subjects ranging from environmental change to the economics of air conditioning - you're kidding, right?

As a physicist I was embarrassed.

But it got even better when out-of-context snippets were taken from regional water managers looking at worst-case scenarios and presented as fact.

As a water board member, I was embarrassed.

If this is the type of reporting acceptable to your newspaper, then I will no longer waste my time reading it. But if this was just a satirical piece, all is forgiven.

John Lee


'Yellow' article causes nothing but panic

I am disappointed by your decision to make the future of the Earth we all live upon a front-page story (Life could worsen by degrees, Feb. 16).

This is even worse than simply hiring someone to picket the street in front of your office carrying a sign proclaiming 'The world is going to end in a very short time.'

The story smacks of old-time 'yellow journalism' - an attempt to both scare people into attention and increase the Tribune's readership.

There is probably some truth in Jim Redden's article, but earth science is far from accurate in this day and age - scientists themselves don't agree on much of anything other than the Earth is warming.

The cause and solution also are points of contention. They certainly don't know if we will enter another 'cooling-off period' again in the near future.

The questions raised need to be studied very carefully. Our failure to understand nuclear power better and the race toward ethanol tell me we need much more discussion before we race mistakenly ahead again.

Barry Adams

Southwest Portland

Planning for future possibilities is smart

There are some very interesting reactions to Jim Redden's article (Life could worsen by degrees, Feb. 16) on your Web site.

I found the title and the article's tone both were carefully measured, if not understated. The story largely involved scenario construction - something universally done by people who plan for future possibilities instead of reacting to them after they occur.

I don't recall any alarmist statements … snowpack is less, and it has consequences. If hydroelectric production falls off, then other forms of power will be needed. This is controversial?

Greg Pinelli



Books offer balanced views on warming

In terms of man's experience with global weather change (Life could worsen by degrees, Feb. 16) the book 'The Long Summer' by Brian Fagan is the best middle-of-the-road read regarding civilization and climate change.

'Greenhouse' by Gale E. Christianson is the best balanced look at the past 200 years of civilization. He doesn't take sides and lays out both arguments strongly.

As to the recent rapid rise of carbon dioxide levels, I'm inclined to agree that man did most of it.

However, we may not have a surrogate for annual measurements back in time. Because ice bubbles are subject to gas migration in response to individual gas pressure, extreme numbers on a per-year basis may not be possible using this type of analysis.

We cannot say that rapid increases did not happen in the past.

Carbon dioxide levels and temperatures rise and fall with each glacial episode and with each interglacial episode quite independent of man. Solar activity, geologic influences on ocean currents, etc., dictate these large patterns.

The Pleistocene ice age and other preceding ice ages owe their origin to continental configurations, as those configurations affected ocean currents and the balance of Earth temperatures.

Given this, we will likely deal with ice ages for the next few tens of millions of years. Even short-term, we are left to ponder what is realistic in terms of tweaking our contribution to greenhouse warming for 100 years or so.

When nature wants to turn things around to close this last interglacial period of 10,000 years, it will do so with ease.

Until then, we should pursue reasonable and realistic options to contain greenhouse gas. We should do so in a way that sustains a vibrant national and world economy.

To stay on this course we need a balanced press, a respect for dissent, and a clear statement of nature's role and our role in this ongoing saga.

John Beaulieu

Southeast Portland