The 19 Percent Solution

Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy's "The 19 Percent Solution" (March) contains so much common sense I'm sure the politicians won't pay attention to it. To balance the budget we have to get a handle on entitlement spending—specifically, we need to means-test benefits. Social Security and Medicare should be treated as insurance, not entitlements.

As for general budget cuts, most U.S. departments could be eliminated: education, energy, agriculture, and commerce, just to name a few. They are redundant, as the states already regulate these areas. We should also greatly reduce spending for the military. Let other countries protect themselves.

I also like the idea of five-to-10-year commitments on spending. If we had done that 50 years ago, some of these programs would not be the monstrosities they are today.

Melinda Colvin

Springdale, WA

The Breakthrough That Wasn't

I can't understand why reason, an otherwise libertarian publication, continues to provide a forum for the progressive hyperbole promoted by Ronald Bailey. "The Breakthrough That Wasn't" (March) posits that global warming exists, is a menace, and is undeniably man-made.

Bailey ignores the fact that carbon dioxide contributions from anthropogenic activities total only about 0.12 percent of the greenhouse gases surrounding the earth. He ignores the fact that tornado activity of the F2 or stronger category has been declining since the early 1970s, and that global hurricane activity is at its lowest level in 30 years. He makes no mention that the Sahara Desert has been shrinking since the early 1980s.

Most egregiously, he ignores the reported unreliability of much of the surface temperature recording being conducted by the government today. Anthony Watts of SurfaceStations.org found that of 860 surface monitoring stations inspected by his team (out of the total network of 1,221 stations monitored by the government), 89 percent failed to meet the National Weather Service's sighting requirements. Surely reason's science correspondent should apply the scientific method a bit more judiciously. 

Richard J. Bielicki

Camp Hill, PA

Bailey responds: Scientists generally accept that, by itself, doubling the atmospheric trace gas carbon dioxide would increase average global temperature by about 1 degree Celsius. A postulated feedback response would then increase heat-trapping water vapor, further boosting temperature. Research suggests not all weather phenomena—e.g., tornados and hurricanes—will necessarily worsen with increased warming. A wetter, warmer world may account for a greening Sahara as well as for shrinking mountain glaciers and Arctic sea ice. For data, I rely on the satellite record compiled by the University of Alabama in Huntsville, which shows that the world has been warming since 1979 at a rate of 0.14 degree Celsius (0.25 degree Fahrenheit) per decade. Over the last century the world has warmed by about 0.8 degree Celsius.

As far as reason's libertarianism goes, I don't know how a scientific question can be resolved based on one's political commitments. In any event, my article simply reported the failure of the United Nations climate change meeting in Cancun last December. It offered no policy prescriptions.