Response to Skeptical Readers

       Front page newspaper coverage was given to Sylvester’s presentation in Auburn NY (link to full story) in the Citizen (paper copy circulation 13,000, plus website). A few readers of that story who had apparently not attended the presentation wrote skeptical letters to the editor. His response was published and also follows here.

The following opinion was published in the Citizen of Auburn NY. It can also be viewed on that website at response to skeptical readers.

Opinion: “Making a Difference”

It was my pleasure to present “Climate Change: The New Urgency of Emission Reduction, and How to Make a Difference” at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Auburn last week. In response to the article published February 7th in the Citizen reporting the presentation, a number of readers wrote letters to the editor. Here I’ll respond to some key points made by the readers.

“DD” wrote "Global warming is bunk. The earth goes through changes over decades.” Along a similar vein, Chris Van Note wrote “in the 1970s it was all about global cooling and a new ice age coming and now this.” Although the news media picked up on the concerns in the '70s of a minority of climate scientists about the cooling, the majority believed that the long term trend would eventually be warming. Unfortunately, since the late 1970s the trend in average global surface temperature has been warming, not cooling. Of special concern is that the rise in temperature is accelerating, as can be seen from the data plotted in the graph on my non-profit website at Slides, Causes and Impacts of Climate Change

“Mother Nature” wrote that “Many scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide doesn't even affect climate.” –Not so.– It’s accepted by almost all scientists who study the climate that greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide are responsible for blanketing the Earth from the cold of space. During the talk I showed slides that detailed the greenhouse effect and how our activities result in emissions that do very substantially increase the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, increasing their retention of heat, warming the Earth. Those slides and all the other slides shown can be accessed for free from my website.

“rd” asked "Will Dr. Johnson please explain why global warming happened in the past before there was so called Greenhouse effects?" Solar and orbital factors causing increases in solar radiation reaching the Earth, as well as generally increasing variation in greenhouse gasses initiated by solar increases, have contributed to the rise in temperature that brought the Earth out of the depths of the Glacial era to the interglacial climate that has allowed civilization to flourish. Those changes took place over many millennia. Solar flares and other variation have been occurring for eons. Yet the warming of the last three decades, following the population explosion and industrial expansion of the last 150 years, has occurred with solar variation within the usual range, not accelerating. The present warming is accelerating so rapidly over decades, not millennia, that no known natural factors could be forcing it strongly enough. This warming follows substantial rises over the last 150 years in a factor that’s new to the climate: human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses, increases of greenhouse gas emissions that have accelerated during the population explosion and industrial era. Therefore people’s activities are almost certainly contributing to warming, as has been concluded by the Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change (, based on analyses of the record.

Leon Kapowski wrote “global warming alarmists are in it for one thing, and one thing only... the almighty dollar”. I’m retired from working on research and development in industry (my CV is on my website). I don’t charge a speaker’s fee for this voluntary community service. I operate the website at a loss (no pop-up ads on the site). I don’t desire any income from this work.

My reward is the hope that the efforts of myself and those who are willing to listen, investigate the information on how to make a difference referenced on my website, and act to support the transition to renewable energy sources, increase efficiency, and capture smokestack carbon dioxide, result in a marginally more livable planet for the children than if we had ignored the several accelerating repercussions detailed in the slides. And a further reward is the hope that everyone’s efforts result in a stronger, more energy independent USA!

Occasionally throughout history a generation is faced with a crisis. We are the generation faced with this rapidly emerging crisis. It’s up to us to expend personal effort and resources to make the transition and increase efficiency. For the children.

I can be contacted through my website


Sylvester Johnson, Ph.D. Applied Physics

       Readers of this letter responded, but not to the content of the letter, rather with other concerns. Sylvester’s further response was published and also follows here.

The following additional letter was published in the Citizen of Auburn NY. It can also be viewed on that website at response to skeptical readers.

“Regional Cooling and Global Warming”

Chris Van Note wrote to The Citizen on February 19, 2007 with concerns that regional cooling might contradict global warming. In response: Scattered areas of regional surface cooling do not disprove the three-decade long accelerating rise in global average surface temperature. As an example, in the southern hemisphere the circumpolar belt around Antarctica is cooler than might be expected with a global warming trend. This apparent contradiction is resolved by considering that the region has experienced a decades-long trend toward increasing circumpolar wind speeds.

The increased circumpolar wind causes increased “Ekman” pumping of cooler water from the deep ocean, a well-accepted physical phenomenon stemming from the Coriolis force. The cooler water from the deep cools the surface, bringing down the temperature readings for the circumpolar belt around Antarctica. While the surface gets cooler, the deep ocean gets warmer. The apparent contradiction with the global warming trend arose because the summary global measurements and average are for the surface.

Areas of regional surface cooling elsewhere in the world are similarly caused by circulatory phenomena in the air or water, and compensated by increased warming away from the surface or in other regions. The overall effect at the surface of the Earth is summarized in the accelerating rise in global average surface temperature.

Sylvester Johnson

Johnson, Ph.D. Applied Physics, can be contacted through his non-profit website

A further letter to the editor by Sylvester: “Economist Ross MiKitrick in a Guest Column in Saturday’s Ithaca Journal pinpointed the tropical troposphere as a measure of climate change. However, any specific region makes an unreliable measure, since regional events such as El Niño and La Niña influence local temperatures. Therefore the consensus among climate scientists is that climate change needs to be monitored using global average surface temperatures. In addition, temperatures need to be assessed over decades to garner statistically significant estimates of temperature trends. That assessment already has been accomplished and reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with the conclusion that human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses are responsible for much of the change, and that substantial damages could be incurred if the trend of increasing temperature continues. Since sufficient data has already been gathered for informed decision-making, the high risk of damages means that the time has come to take strong actions to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gasses. Many economists agree with Ross MiKitrick that the most effective action would be enactment of a carbon tax, as detailed in my article at”

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