, Salem, MA

June 19, 2013

Columnist's advice could hurt the economy

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

The June 6 issue of The Salem News contains another discussion of global warming prepared by Brian Watson. Unfortunately, he again seems to ignore an important component of the problem. This time, that component is the international dimension.

Mr. Watson argues that we must transition to “wind, solar, hydroelectrical, geothermal and tidal” energy sources. He proposes that this transition be encouraged by subsidies and by “an outright tax on carbon emissions.” Because he says nothing about international agreements, he seems to be recommending that the U.S. do this unilaterally. That could be a disaster. The U.S. is not the nation responsible for the greatest annual emission of carbon dioxide. That distinction goes to China. Thus, if Mr. Watson’s recommendations were to be followed, we could seriously damage our economy with very little benefit to the environment.

Mr. Watson’s failure to provide carefully reasoned arguments is nicely captured by the photo that accompanies his article. The photo bears the caption “Smog in downtown Singapore.” The visual effect is striking, but irrelevant. Smog has absolutely nothing to do with global warming. The photo has apparently been chosen to impress the reader rather than to inform the reader. In addition, it happens that smog in Singapore is largely a result of agricultural burning in Indonesia. The prevailing winds carry the smoke across the Strait of Malacca and produce the result shown in the photo. If the international agreements that Mr. Watson ignores were simple, this problem would have been solved long ago.

Global warming is an important topic. Let’s hope that future columns will give it the treatment that it deserves.

Kenneth A. Smith