As a scientist, I cringe whenever I read mangled facts such as those from Mr. Rolf Westgard, published June 26 (Scary Images). It is important for your readers to get accurate information about this complex subject so we can make informed decisions.
What were his mistakes? First, Mr. Westgard claimed there is no role for carbon dioxide on human respiratory health such as asthma and heart attacks. Minnesota's Department of Health climate change website states that, "Climate change affects air quality and exposure to air pollutants in many ways. Specific air pollutants that are likely to be increased by climate change and result in negative health impacts include particulate matter, ozone, and pollen and mold ... Mold growth also is enhanced by climate change from increasing temperatures and precipitation. Mold can ... have greater impact on persons with asthma or weakened immune systems ... Others who may have an increased sensitivity include individuals with an existing health condition, such as: asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, allergies."
Mr. Westgard made other seriously misleading statements. He claimed that humans emit half a ton of carbon dioxide each year by exhaling. He neglected to tell us that all of that carbon dioxide was originally pulled out of the atmosphere by the plants we eat. Consequently, humans are not net emitters of carbon dioxide through breathing. Finally, he suggested that carbon dioxide is good for plants but neglected to report that scientists have shown many plants are becoming less nutritious in a carbon rich environment.
These errors and omissions show why we should listen a little more closely to our health and climate experts - those who work on this topic every day. We need to work together on sensible solutions to solve this climate change problem, but to do that, we need accurate information.
Dr. John Abraham
Thermal Sciences Professor
University of St. Thomas