Letter: Global warming sparks a heated debate

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The Independent Online
Sir: Gregg Easterbrook (7 August) accuses environmentalists of exaggerating global environmental threats in order to influence public opinion and decision-makers. He then quotes evidence supporting his case and fails to consider the balance of scientific opinion that does not - precisely the behaviour that enrages him when exhibited by the environmental lobby.

There is remarkable scientific agreement that greenhouse warming will occur. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, involving more than 300 leading scientists, concluded that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are increasing substantially and that an estimated rate of warming between 0.2-0.5 C per decade is likely. The magnitude of the impacts of climate change is still speculative but this does not mean we should wait for them to happen before acting. They are likely to include reductions in food production, water supplies and increases in some vector-borne diseases. The Third World will probably suffer disproportionately.

It is incorrect to say expenditure on 'hypothetical ecological concerns' has prevented aid to reduce child deaths in the Third World. International indifference to the plight of impoverished children antedated the rise of environmentalism. In any case, the sums spent on overseas development and environmental protection pale into insignificance compared with annual military expenditure of around pounds 500bn world-wide.

Those who exaggerate environmental threats risk numbing public opinion by 'crying wolf'. Those who understate the dangers and do not advocate precautionary measures risk sabotaging the already inadequate attempts to minimise global warming.

Yours faithfully,

ANDREW HAINES

Vice-President

Medical Action for

Global Security

London, N19

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