In his Nov. 18 op-ed column, George Will derided Vice President Al Gore as an "eco-pessimist" for statements made in his 1992 book "Earth in the Balance" about the dangers of global warming. But the concerns noted by Mr. Gore in 1992 are strongly supported by evidence of the past seven years. Records confirm that 1998 was the warmest year in 1,000 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, the five warmest years since reliable instrument records began 120 years ago all occurred in the 1990s.
In 1990, as the vice president wrote in his book, an intergovernmental panel of scientists' best estimate of global surface temperature change was 2.5 degrees Celsius. Today the best estimate is 2 degrees Celsius--hardly a "near revolution," as Mr. Will's column claims; closer to a confirmation.
Any benefits of climate change will be more than offset by other likely effects of an accelerated hydrological cycle--e.g., more storms, floods and droughts; changes in the incidence and distribution of agricultural pests and pathogens; increased fatalities from heat stress; expansion of the geographic ranges for diseases such as malaria and dengue fever; a six- to 37-inch sea level rise; and ecosystems unable to adapt quickly enough to substantial climate shifts. Mr. Will conceded that global warming is occurring and that human activities are at least partly to blame. It is unfortunate, however, that he ignored the substantial risks to our environment, public health and future generations.
D. JAMES BAKER
And Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce