A couple of statements in a letter to the editor in Monday's paper ("Letter to the Editor: Fee on fossil fuels," March 21) got me thinking about what I know or think I know about the subject of climate change.
The first statement I noticed was "climate change is changing our world so fast many may not realize how much change has already happened." I agree with part of that statement. I certainly don't realize how much the climate has changed. I've been living in Bakersfield for 35 years and the local climate is the same as when I first came here. So is the weather. Maybe it's different in Huntington Beach.
The difference between climate and weather is merely one of scope. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place, like in Bakersfield or Huntington Beach or elsewhere, and is described in terms of variable conditions such as temperature, humidity, wind velocity, precipitation and barometric pressure. Forecasts about local weather are given in my paper every day for the following three days. When to turn on the AC and break out the shorts and T-shirts is predictable every year. Climate is commonly defined as the weather averaged over a large area and a long period of time. Both Bakersfield and Huntington Beach and other locales have climates. Their climates are the weather patterns exhibited during summer, winter, spring and fall, commonly over a 30-year period. All climate change proponents including the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) measure components of weather, principally temperature, to make their inaccurate predictions concerning climate change.
As a result of my bachelor of science degree in geology, I know that the climate has changed throughout the history of the earth, and I believe that it will continue to change in the future. About 18,000 years ago, much of North America was covered by glaciers a couple of thousand feet thick, and the sea was much shallower than it is today. Climate change caused these glaciers to melt and caused the oceans to rise several hundred meters. A few million years ago during the Cretaceous period, there were no glaciers, and the climate was considerably hotter than today. This all happened when the population of the earth was minuscule, or in the case of the Cretaceous, nonexistent.
The population of the earth today is about 7.9 billion. This many people necessarily have a profound effect on the environment. To me the question isn't whether humans have an effect, but whether their activities are enough to overcome the conditions that caused dramatic climatic changes before humans evolved. I don't know the answer to that question, and I don't think those who believe that man and man alone is the cause of climate change (previously referred to as global warming) know either. I say that because of their repeated predictions of when all the world's glaciers will melt, when all the polar bears will die and when New York will be under several feet of water. Twenty years ago, they said these things would occur in 20 years. None of it has happened. But it might, they still say. That has changed with the appearance of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her contention that the use of fossil fuels is an existential threat and that if something isn't done right now humanity will cease to exist in 12 years. I don't believe her prediction and know the predictions of people like Al Gore, and others like him, are wrong because none of their predictions have ever happened. But you say they might.
Another thing that caught my eye was the phrase "will get us to a point that will stop climate change." Is the author saying that he and Brik McDill ("COMMUNITY VOICES: Pay attention to the view beyond our windows," March 17) believe that if everything is done as they propose, that the earth will become stable? Are they saying that the sea will never rise or subside again? That the forces that caused climate change in the past will no longer change the face of the earth? Will plate tectonics, which are active, cease? Are these stupid questions? Every teacher I've had from pre-kindergarten through graduate school told me there was no such thing as a stupid question. They failed to tell me that stupid answers abound.
Byron Ayme graduated with a bachelor of science in geology from LSU. He retired from occidental petroleum.