U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voices pessimism about the prospects...

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voices pessimism about the prospects of a comprehensive deal on greenhouse gas emissions. He is attending the U.N. Conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa. AP video. (Dec. 7, 2011) Credit: AP

The news story "Rising sea levels put millions at flood risk" [March 15] accurately expresses the concerns of climatologists related to the risks to low lying populated areas. However, considering the widespread lack of scientific knowledge by the general public, many readers will be left with the mistaken belief that this is the result of recent human industrial activity. Actually, according to NASA's Goddard (GISS) Earth Science division, sea levels have been rising for the past 20,000 years; since the end of the last Ice Age.

There have been scores of ice ages followed by subsequent melting (with sea levels falling then rising) in the past eons, none of which were caused by industrialization. Many scientists believe that these periodic changes result primarily from the process of planetary "axial precession," a 26,000-year cycle of rotation, or wobble, of the Earth's axis that changes the Earth's angle to the sun. Precession changes this angle and thus the entire Earth's climate.

It is important not to minimize the environmental impact of human activity on our planet. But people should understand that Hummers do not trump physics or Mother Nature!

Richard H. Staudt, Mount Sinai

Editor's note: The writer taught science in Plainedge schools.


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