Nothing seems to roil our readership like environmental stories. Not only has John Barton's "How Green is Golf?" piece drawn fire (and support). Several readers took exception to Mike Stachura's piece on potential coastal flooding that warmer climates may bring .
And Mike takes exception to their letters. Here's the exchange.
First, Ohioan Ron Strah:
I'm disappointed that Golf Digest would give a platform to the alarmist predictions of Mike Stachura in his global warming feature. His dire predictions of everything south of Miami being underwater in 100 years is pure speculation if not a flat out lie. There is no "consensus" as the activists would like us to believe. Hundreds of scientists now disagree on this issue. It's nice to see that your magazine is concerned about the environmental effects of our sport, but apocalypse type scare tactics have no place in this debate, anymore than consulting astrology charts. Golfers can rest easy that Doral's Blue Monster will continue to have alligators in the lakes...instead of sharks.
And Jay Gajda of Westland, MI:
This is regarding the article "Global Warming:Our Coast Is Under Attack" by Mr. Stachura. I did not know that Golf Digest, starting with the May, 2008 issue, is now publishing articles of science fiction. It is more than enough to have to read articles like this based on junk science in regular magazines and now have to be subjected to it in our fine golf magazines. Will the author next month be nutty Al gore?
Junk science? While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a sea level rise of .6 meters by the turn of the century, this estimate does not reflect what would happen to particularly low-lying areas. Indeed, the most recent IPCC Synthesis Report includes a projection of 30 percent loss of coastal wetlands. That report also includes an analysis of what likely will happen if the Greenland ice shelf disappears, a likely scenario: "Contraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to continue to contribute to sea level rise after 2100. Current models suggest virtually complete elimination of the Greenland ice sheet and a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7m if global average warming were sustained..." How about this language from a 2007 NASA study: "Recent observations of Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet raise concerns for the future. Satellites detect a thinning of parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet at lower elevations, and glaciers are disgorging ice into the ocean more rapidly, adding 0.23 to 0.57 mm/yr to the sea within the last decade. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is also showing some signs of thinning. Either ice sheet, if melted completely, contains enough ice to raise sea level by 5-7 m. A global temperature rise of 2-5Ã¿Â°C might destabilize Greenland irreversibly. Such a temperature rise lies within the range of several future climate projections for the 21st century." Do we really believe that sea levels are going to rise 7 meters in the next 100 years? No, of course not. But current trends clearly predict a rise and the intensity of that rise will depend on location. Low-lying areas (precisely those where we find golf courses) are more vulnerable to the surge that will naturally accompany any kind of sea level rise brought about by climate change. Consider this language from a report of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science: " In the U.S., the Southeast and Gulf coasts are particularly vulnerable.Sea-level rise and climate change issues in the coastal zone include:
- higher and more frequent flooding of wetlands and adjacent shores>
- expanded flooding during severe storms and high tides>
- increased wave energy in the near-shore area>
- upward and land-ward migration of beaches>
- accelerated coastal retreat and erosion>
- intrusion into coastal freshwater aquifers>
- damage to coastal infrastructure>
- broad impacts on the coastal economy"
NASA, NOAA, and a Nobel Prize winning organization of the leading experts on climate change in the world all agree. I think I'll go with their scenario, not yours.>
(Illustration: Christoph Niemann)