Letters: Fall 2014

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Fall 2014


Readers Weigh in on Climate Change

The articles on climate change [Summer 2014] are presented as if a crisis is widely accepted as fact and there were no dissenting views or science. Rather than jumping on this liberal bandwagon, I expect better of the U. Both views and experts on both sides should be presented. Our planet is some 5 billion years old and climate change is continuous. I have yet to see reliable, empirical data that proves we have any significant influence on these events. Until I see it presented from a reliable source in a credible way I do not buy it. As a society we are in the process of wasting major resources on a problem we have very little control over, a huge disservice to our country. The “global warming” theory could not be supported so we had to move on to “climate change” instead? Let’s focus on real problems that need real solutions, please!

Warren Thompson (B.S. ’74) Baltic, South Dakota

What can we do about climate change? Prepare for the next heating or cooling cycle, of which there have been over 600. Currently, we need to build oil refineries and power plants to supply our country with the increasing need for heating and cooling. As things stand now, brownouts and blackouts will increase, disrupting our economy and the nation’s health.

The history of earth’s climate is one of constant change, warming and cooling in established cycles over millions of years. Global warming exists, global cooling exists. Neither is affected by man’s activity. It is a natural phenomenon.

Tom Nordeen (B.A. ’91) St. Paul

Jonathan Foley writes, “Minnesota’s climate, like that of every other place in the world, is changing.” That is certainly correct. Then, he goes on to say: “And it’s changing because of us.” While frequently asserted, such an idea is based upon theory and laboratory data that is neither supported nor contradicted by any meaningful atmospheric or other climate data.

As he next states, correctly: “This isn’t new science. In fact, the basic physics of the greenhouse effect have been known since the early 1800s and are widely accepted by the scientific community.”

True enough, but this does not equate to his previous assertion that the effects of human activities are changing our climate. What he actually said—his key point—is, in a word, a falsehood, and an embarrassment to the publication.

He next states, correctly, [that] there is no serious scientific debate [that] global climate change is very real. But then, he gets off track by adding, “. . . is well understood, and is going to get worse unless we act soon.”

Climate change is far from being well understood and with the level of current understanding, it is not possible to say that it may or may not get worse irrespective of whether we “act soon” or not.

It would seem that the editor failed to have the Foley piece reviewed by any informed and knowledgeable examiners, and, as a consequence, is not up to the standard I have come to expect of the alumni publication.

G. Charles Hann (B.Ch.E. ’45, M.S.Chem.E. ’51) Minneapolis

Jonathan Foley responds: Geological and astronomical forces drove changes in the earth’s climate before humans were a major force on the planet. There is now an exceptionally strong consensus about climate change by the world’s scientific community. All major international scientific organizations and national academies of science agree: The climate is warming, and we are the dominant force. Our activities, especially burning fossil fuels and forests, are driving changes in the composition of the atmosphere, increasing the levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which are warming the planet. That warming is now obvious to nearly everyone and is completely consistent with a buildup of greenhouse gases.

As an alumna, I have been looking for the University’s leadership on climate adaptation. Sadly, I am much more aware of a predominance of research being used to catalyze a continued dependence on unsustainable solutions like fossil fuel-dependent, highly mechanized agriculture and food systems. As Minnesota’s flagship public university, it is the U’s responsibility to speak up and speak clearly about climate change.

As a livestock farmer, I found much to admire in your summer issue, but it could have said more about solutions that farmers, rural, and urban communities are developing. We raise hogs for sale into an organic market. I would welcome a wider variety of grains like oats, barley, and wheat for sale in our area. Currently we cannot buy organic feed from our local elevator. We have to source, transport, grind, and mix it ourselves. The predominance of corn and soybeans, while promoting one kind of system, has limited the growth of other systems. And let’s not forget that while cattle are fed corn and soybeans, they prefer perennial grasses.

There are examples like the organic dairy herd and the alternative swine facility at the University of Minnesota, Morris. This is far too limited. More funds for this kind of research would demonstrate that the University of Minnesota is a leader in helping people respond and think far into the future about climate adaptation.

Amy Bacigalupo (B.S. ’92, M.S. ’01) Montevideo, Minnesota

I would like to commend you for your series of articles regarding climate change. I am happy our university is using its expertise to support the state by supplying valuable information to policymakers and citizens. It is particularly important for our land grant university to model civil discussions and presentation of controversial topics such as this.

Tom Prieve (D.V.M. ’84) Ashby, Minnesota

I want to thank the editor and staff for publishing the excellent summer issue. As a retired watershed biologist, I really appreciate the work that the [University of Minnesota-based] Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and the Center for Integrated Natural Resources & Agricultural Management did on Minnesota’s new Forever Green Initiative, which is lighting the way toward more resilient, efficient, and sustainably profitable agriculture.

Those who attempt to discredit climate science, deny that action must be taken, or impede the public’s right to know about real risks and possible ways to respond, do themselves, their children, and their neighbors a great disservice. I appreciate the honesty and courage of media like Minnesota and academics at the U when they stand up to PR tactics with the truth.

Arthur Hawkins (B.A., B.S. ’71) Winona, Minnesota

Fundamentally, the magazine avoided the overarching issue of human caused climate change—population. An energy policy is first and foremost a population policy. Yet, in the entire issue, there is no mention of this essential factor.

In his State of the University 2014 speech, President Kaler describes some of the consequences of overpopulation, that is, poverty, social inequality, hunger, climate change, and spreading diseases. Yet, Dr. Kaler could not say the words overpopulation, population growth, or goals such as sustainable societies.

The essence of Kaler’s and the Minnesota articles is to continue the status quo: unlimited growth. Add some technological fixes here, compel a social fix there, and everything will be nothing but roses and good times going forward.

Clearly, despite the rhetoric to the contrary, the University of Minnesota believes its role is to encourage unlimited population growth in Minnesota and the United States and to develop technology and processes to modify social and economic lifestyles to accommodate that growth. Those environmental denizens of the 1960s and 1970s knew better. This won’t end well.

Dell Erickson (B.S.B. ’74) Minneapolis

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