How to Respond to Climate Change (The New York Times)

climate NYT

President Francois Hollande of France viewed receding ice curing a visit to Iceland in October. Credit Pool photo by Thibault Camus

To the Editor:

Re “Tough Realities of the Climate Talks,” by Steven E. Koonin (Op-Ed, Nov. 4):

The first rule in managing any crisis is: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

In order to manage climate change, we have to reduce its primary cause, the greenhouse gas emissions that are making the problem worse by the day.

Mr. Koonin correctly asserts that adaptation to our new climate reality is critically important. However, it’s not enough, not nearly enough. There’s no plausible scenario whereby we can adapt our way out of huge disruption to our way of life. We must continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, too.

Impacts from climate change are so broad and complex that all of our policy and technology ingenuity must be brought to bear. Any agreement from the Paris talks is another step, but it is certainly not the end.

Continued foot-dragging and obstruction on reduction efforts will further endanger our way of life. We have to continue, and accelerate, reduction of greenhouse gases.


Saunderstown, R.I.

To the Editor:

Steven E. Koonin is correct that “the reality is that humans must continue to adapt, as they always have.” But while citizens in the modern, developed world will adapt by building sea walls, relocating, changing diets and getting by with less, many citizens of the third world will be forced to adapt using much older approaches.

They will die from thirst, starvation, exposure to extreme temperatures, wars, civil violence and epidemics. And while they are desperately trying to stay alive, they will be destroying forests, killing endangered species and severely damaging large ecosystems that all humans need for our survival as a species. No matter how we adapt, we’re all in this together.


Incline Village, Nev.

To the Editor:

Steven E. Koonin paints a grimly accurate picture of the largely ineffective course of global climate negotiations. For many reasons, as he notes, it is unlikely that international legal structures will produce the reductions needed to stabilize global climate.

However, Mr. Koonin’s conclusion, that we had basically better get used to it, neglects the catastrophic effects that a grossly altered global climatic system will produce: impacts that may destabilize entire regions of the world and produce human suffering, particularly in less wealthy nations, at unimaginable levels.

It is time to take a hard look at geoengineering technologies, which offer a third choice alongside unlikely emissions reductions and defeatist adaptation. For the last 125 years, humanity has been running an uncontrolled experiment on the global atmosphere. International scientific and diplomatic efforts are needed to formally explore promising technologies, like iron fertilization, that may provide a pragmatic solution.


Barre, Vt.