November 19, 2013

Letters to the editor: Can’t deny warming; now let’s lead fight

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its “Summary for Policymakers” authored by more than 250 scientists from 39 countries. The report concludes that warming of the global climate system is “unequivocal.” The primary culprit, atmospheric carbon dioxide, has reached a level 30 percent higher than the highest peak ever in the past 800,000 years. But the smoking gun is the rate at which these levels have risen, taking only 100 years to achieve what naturally requires more than 10,000 years.

A letter writer calls for more action on global warming, partly because it’s a threat to a way of life and livelihoods in Maine.

Staff File Photo

The people of Maine understand the life-giving and life-taking power of the ocean. Hidden in plain sight, the ocean has quietly been protecting us by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. The ocean is very resilient, but by absorbing 30 percent of anthropogenic C02, its chemical make-up has been altered. It has become more acidic and depleted of carbonate, a building block required for shellfish to build their shells.

Shellfish fisheries in Oregon and Washington have already seen these effects with devastating results; in fact, Pacific oysters are seen as the “canary in the coal mine” of ocean acidification. Paradoxically, research has shown that lobsters seem to actually develop stronger shells in these conditions; however, the additional energy expended during developmental stages has ultimately led to higher mortality rates.

Fishing is a cornerstone of not only the economy, but also the identity of Maine. Those who fish for lobster, other shellfish and groundfish have defined the flinty, independent spirit of the state, but their way of life and livelihoods are facing a looming threat. The United States lags behind much of the developed world in terms of climate, sustainability and natural resource management policy.

The country must become a leader in the fight against climate change, globally and domestically. If we do not act, it will result in economic hardship and human suffering for some of its hardest-working citizens.

Ross Madore

Portland and Austin, Texas 

Column right on insurance; it’s truly generational theft

John Graham of Woolwich complains (“More objectivity needed in discussion of insurance,” Nov. 4) that a column by M.D. Harmon (“Government steals from the young to give to the elderly,” Oct. 25) mischaracterizes the purpose of insurance. According to Graham, insurance requires “the more fortunate paying for the misfortunes of other subscribers.”

However, Harmon was summarizing the position recently taken by Stanley Druckenmiller and others. Druckenmiller was addressing the need for entitlement reform in the face of increasing debt.

For example, Druckenmiller, Geoffrey Canada and Kevin Warsh write: “Young people now entering the workforce will actually lose 4.2% of their total lifetime wages because of their participation in Social Security. A typical third-grader will get back (in present value terms) only 75 cents for every dollar he contributes to Social Security over his lifetime. Meanwhile, many seniors with greater means nearing retirement age will pocket a handsome profit.” (“Generational Theft Needs to Be Arrested,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14).

And lest anyone believe that paying into Social Security gives them a right to at least some of that money, the 1960 Supreme Court ruling Flemming v. Nestor asserts that no one has a legally binding contractual right to the money they paid in.

So elders today are being supported by younger people who are required to pay into Social Security, but those younger people are unlikely to get back as much as they put in (as Druckenmiller argues), and are legally entitled to literally none of what they put in (as the Supreme Court has ruled).

If there is any better example of generational theft, I have yet to hear of it.

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