Friday Firing Lines for Nov. 1, 2013

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Every Friday, the Daily Texan editorial board will publish a selection of tweets and online comments, along with direct submissions from readers. Our intention is to continue the tradition of the Firing Line, a column first started in the Texan in 1909, in which readers share their opinions “concerning any matter of general interest they choose.” Just like in 1909, the Texan “will never express its approval or disapproval of opinions given under the [Firing Line] header.” In other words, take your shot.

An environmental agency in name only

I recently read your article “The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should protect the atmosphere, too,” and was angered to realize Texas was the only state to refuse to comply with federal regulation of greenhouse gases and that the commission dedicated to the environment really has no interest in the environment over economic benefits.

The issue of politicians versus scientists seems to be a critical issue in this situation. Many times informed decisions are not made due to the fact that policy makers and scientists do not work together. The members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality blatantly dispute the serious issue of rising global climate due to anthropogenic factors, especially green house gas emissions. If these members would take the time to work with scientists and understands the dangers and potential ways to improve them, they would seemingly save money they are worried about spending on lawsuits, and could use it to benefit our state and overall the globe.

The fact that atmosphere is a public resource that is so crucial to everyone’s health all around the world makes me believe new leaders should definitely be chosen. Although choosing new leaders will not magically solve our massive climate problem, it would be one step forward by getting someone on the commission who actually supports the effort for environmental change.

—Elise Bentley, Austin resident

Atmospheric protection also needed for its effect on water

I recently read with interest the article “The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should protect the atmosphere, too.” I appreciate that The Daily Texan can see the blatant issue with the commission’s disregard for the need to protect the atmosphere. I would like to expand on the fact that if the commssion’s true goal was to protect state waters, than they would also be worried about protecting the atmosphere. The level of acidity in the ocean is rising rapidly, and a huge part of that is because of the current state of the atmosphere. The ocean is absorbing approximately a quarter of the CO2 that has been released into the atmosphere each year. This absorption is causing the acidity level of the ocean to rise. Not only is creating issues with seawater, but has a huge impact on biodiversity, particularly on shellfish. Not only is not protecting the atmosphere causing problems with protecting state waters but is also contributing to the major issue we are having with decline in marine biodiversity. Society should take it upon themselves to stop, if not try to reverse these problems, and this article is a great effort to make people aware of the problems at hand.

—Katie Crawford, Austin resident

UT students can make a difference for the environment

The article “Austinites Should Fight for Efficient Energy,” written by Travis Knoll, recently caught my attention as I’ve been curious about local efforts in reducing carbon emissions and living a ‘green’ lifestyle. Knoll sums up Austin’s role in addressing climate change through energy efficiency by reminding readers that Austin ranks sixth in the nation due to the green-friendly building codes enforced. Austin already has the plastic bag ban, which is an inspirational start for change.

As a current student in the course “Humans and a Changing Ocean,” I am exposed to many of the major issues facing our planet such as climate change, ocean acidification, and a loss of biodiversity. Human impact on the environment is starting to take its toll as we wait around for something major to happen; it is evident that we’ve already started some huge changes such as temperatures rising due to the rate of the greenhouse gases we are emitting. It is encouraging to see UT’s newspaper posting opinion articles such as this, and I hope to see more attention drawn to the student’s role in climate change in the future. The time is undeniably now to start shifting the way we approach these issues, and Austin is a great place to start. More awareness needs to be brought to the topic of climate change and it’d be great to see the Daily Texan encouraging students to get involved by posting informative articles, in addition to the local and individual changes our generation can make. I enjoyed the different perspectives of the three speakers as it gave a well-rounded view. The closing statement of the article stated that it would take the effort of not only our generation, but the older generation that played a role in emissions as well. I feel that the UT student body and our generation in general is capable of making some major changes if we can get people interested and properly informed on the topic at hand.

—Carly Shiell, UT student

Research stands up to scrutiny

In this space, Travis Knoll [“Potter, other UT professors should peer-review abortion research before they politicize it”] has suggested that my testimony, both on the stand and in the declarations I submitted to the court in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Service v. Abbot, No. 1:13-cv-862-LY, was rushed and not subject to any sort of review, and that its scientific rigor was compromised by haste and political objectives. It does not appear, however, that Mr. Knoll has read the declarations and their accompanying exhibits, or the transcript of my testimony, and he certainly made no independent attempt to evaluate their rigor and credibility.  

While the analysis performed by me and my colleagues on the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), reflected in the initial declaration I submitted on Oct. 1, was prepared in a relatively short amount of time, we had the advantage of being able to draw on research that we have been conducting over the past two years. During this time, we have collected information from both providers and recipients of abortion care throughout the state. We also had a team made up of three Ph.D.’s, one M.D. and five M.A. researchers working on the analysis. Moreover, the analysis we carried out was limited in scope so that it could be carefully completed during the time that we had available.  

The original declaration was, in fact, subject to a form of peer review within the legal system. The defendants submitted a declaration in their response filed on Oct. 15 that was prepared by Dr. Peter Uhlenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. In his declaration, Dr. Uhlenberg commented on and reviewed our declaration. We then had three days in which to prepare and file a rebuttal declaration addressing the concerns raised by Dr. Uhlenberg and other declarations filed as part of the defendants’ response. All of these documents are publically available on the court’s web site. Our declaration, Dr. Uhlenberg’s declaration, and our rebuttal declaration have been posted on the TxPEP web site. The issues of academic peer review and the scientific credibility of the investigators are addressed explicitly in the rebuttal declaration. In this document, we also provided a detailed elaboration of the methods used, and the assumptions made, in arriving at our estimates of the shortfall in provider capacity. I encourage anyone concerned with the objectivity and integrity of our analysis to read the original declaration, the Uhlenberg critique and the rebuttal: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/orgs/txpep/research-briefs.php.

 —Joseph Potter, sociology professor at UT-Austin