To The Editor,

At the risk of appearing to be a climate change denier, I think that the public has been somewhat misled  by the term “global warming”. It creates an expectation of change in one’s everyday life, but global warming is an incremental thing, unevenly distributed throughout the world and buried in the noise of daily weather and seasonal changes. Storms and flooding get people’s attention, but does anybody “feel” global warming? It mostly rates a shrug.

Even less “sensible” but perhaps more significant is the amount of energy in the atmosphere in the form of water vapor and the latent heat that it carries. The melting of ice and the vaporization of water are latent heat effects. They don’t involve a change in temperature but do require large shifts of thermal energy. It takes a kilocalorie (a “food” Calorie) of heat to raise the temperature of a kilogram of water 1  degree Celsius. It takes about 80 to melt a kilo of ice and 540 to vaporize a kilo of water.

The quantity and energy of water vapor has a great affect on weather phenomena such as storms and cloud cover. I’m not a climatologist, but I suspect that both ice and water vapor act as a thermal flywheel that keeps the climate on an even keel and livable, at least for us. It has some natural wobble, but we overload or unbalance it at our peril.

Sometimes I have to smile at people who say we need to “save the Earth”. The Earth has been around for billions of years whereas we’ve been here for the blink of a dinosaur’s eye. The Earth has the patience of mountains. On that time scale, there’s nothing we can do to permanently affect it.

More likely it’s ourselves we have to save, or risk being a footnote in Mother Earth’s autobiography: “N.B. Tried smart monkeys; didn’t work”.

Thomas Gonzalez,
Vankleek Hill