The column by Donella H. Meadows ("In Global-Warning Debate, Skeptics Corral Bush With A Policy of Inaction," Feb. 11) mischaracterizes the scientific debate on global climate change.
The "greenhouse effect" is a natural atmospheric phenomenon which keeps the Earth's temperature at livable levels by preventing some of the Earth's heat from escaping into space. If there were no greenhouse gases--including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide--the average global temperature would hover somewhere around zero degrees.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Washington, D.C., highlighted a number of scientific uncertainties about the potential for an "enhanced" greenhouse effect. It is this potential which is being widely debated by the scientific community. To date no scientific consensus has been reached as to the magnitude or timing of any temperature rise nor as to estimates of potential impact.
The American Petroleum Institute encourages an accelerated pace of basic climate science and impact assessment as these issues are debated. We also favor expanded efforts to understand and communicate the economic, social and political consequences of both climate changes and proposed policy responses.