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Letter to the editor: WWI, climate change have similarities

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - 12:01 am

Retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley likens today's climate change deniers to the European rulers at the start of WWI a hundred years ago this year. The murder of an Archduke and his wife set off a war ultimately killing 8.5 million combatants and 6.8 civilians – all to avenge the assassination of two people!

Both the European leaders of 1914 and the climate change deniers of today “reflected political policies pursued for short-term gains and benefits,” writes Titley. Both had/have personal and “institutional hubris.” Both had/have a failure or an unwillingness “to imagine and understand the risks” involved.

The stupidity/arrogance/egotism of the 1914 European leaders resulted in “a disaster in many ways, the reverberations from which are still felt a century later.”

The stupidity/arrogance/egotism of today's climate change deniers may result in “pain to hundreds of millions of people and seriously disrupt the existing economic and political orders of the day,” says Titley. These effects could reverberate for many millennia.

“In 2014, we again face uncertainties and choices of enormous consequence,” writes Titley, “just as the European powers faced choices in 1914. The data and projections are laid out in front of us, as they were for them. Will we repeat the same mistakes they made a century ago?”

Titley continues: “This is not a political or partisan issue — the atmosphere, water and ice neither know nor care how anyone votes or thinks. Humanity can perform amazing, nearly miraculous feats. But it requires sustained leadership from all sectors and at all levels. Political leaders must remember those ghosts from history a century ago — and this time avert the crisis.”

Like it or not, it is only governmental initiatives and regulation in the USA that can have a significant impact in reducing greenhouse gases. Unfortunately the USA leads the world in per capita causation of climate change. It would be amoral for anyone in the Fort Wayne area to not support judicious, practical, and science-based changes needed to reduce climate change.

Thank you, Adm. Titley for these insights. Titley's article is on page 361 of the July 25 magazine SCIENCE.

Albert C. Kuelling