July 20, 2012

In a technical sense, the key point in the July 18 editorial “Climate change” was correct: No heat wave or single weather event can be directly attributed to the increased levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, even though, as the editorial noted, “the basic precepts of physics” point to such effects.

Such reasoning, however, ignored the most important fact about the scientific experiment that humanity is conducting: Within human time scales, it is essentially irreversible. If the scientists are right, more warming will occur even if the world stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow. Roughly half of the carbon dioxide from these fuels would remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Every day of inaction makes the trend stronger, the certainty greater and the impacts worse.

Metaphorically, the world is canoeing down a turbulent river that is rapidly gaining speed, and the thunder of a waterfall is growing in the distance. We can pretend that the noise is coming from jumbo jets flying too close to the ground, or we can paddle as hard as we can to get to shore before we are swept over the edge. May we choose wisely — and fast.

Reid Detchon, Washington

The writer is the U.N. Foundation’s vice president for energy and climate.

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As the editorial on climate change pointed out, science clearly tells us we are just seeing the tip of the climate-impact iceberg. If the multibillion-dollar price tag of recent extreme weather events (too many to list here) tells us anything, it’s that failing to address carbon pollution is a cost we can’t bear.

The good news: Addressing the causes and impacts of climate change will boost our economy and build a stronger nation for generations to come. Ramping up renewables and investing in climate-preparedness will put Americans to work while helping protect our farms, businesses and homes. On the other hand, the consequences of inaction will be titanic for our country’s economy and security.

J.P. Leous, Washington

The writer is director of outreach for the U.S. Climate Action Network and serves on the board of DC Greenworks.