I have been conflicted for sometime about the subject of “Global Warming” more appropriately renamed as “Climate Change.” I had no doubt there has been a significant change in our weather conditions. My conflict has centered around:
- How much of this has been caused by man and what he is uploading into the atmosphere as opposed to the cyclical changes we’ve had for over 2,000 years?
- Is it really an impending crisis or a distraction from the failure of liberal politicians to buy voters with their dependency programs?
- What can we really do about it? If we lead, who and how many will follow? (See the Paris accord to follow.)
- How much can we afford to do with a somewhat fragile economy?
Let’s start by outlining who the players are in this debate:
- The proponents of climate change as a “crisis”: Al Gore (who also thinks he invented the internet); the liberal Democrats who tend to exploit problems the government can address; the U.S. National Research Council (USNRC); the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and many scientists, maybe a majority.
- The skeptics, who tend to call the problem luke-warming: The Libertarian CATO Institute; the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT); the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI); and a number of scientists, probably a minority.
To deny climate change and global warming is akin to denying the Holocaust or the landing on the moon.
I’ve read much of the arguments proffered by the ayes and nays, but my conflict remained so last fall I took a short course at UCLA that concentrated on the need for renewable energy sources and reflected on the overall climate change issue as well. It was taught by Tom Flood, Ph.D., a retired USC Professor of Environmental Studies.
The course concentrated on renewable energy, which I knew a little about from my early affiliation with the electrical industry. It seemed an appropriate focus because it appears to be the single best answer to my question #3 above.
Today, about 80% of our electric energy is generated by fossil fuels. There are several facts which contribute to the need to try to decrease our use of fossil fuels and use more renewable energy sources.
So let’s look at some facts:
- No one seems to doubt that our primary source of end use energy will be electric.
- We have climate change—how much man contributes may still be a question, but we have it.
- There is a strong political effort to reduce fossil fuels used to generate electricity from 80% to 50% by 2050 and reduce it further from there—to zero.
- Burning of fossil fuels dumps CO2 into the atmosphere and at least to some extent contributes to climate warming and change.
- In the 2016 election cycle, only 34% of the voting public thought climate change was an important issue.
- Sooner or later, we will run out of fossil fuels…probably a lot later.
- The average global surface temperature has risen about 1.4 degrees over the last century. Two-thirds of that rise has happened since 1975. That rise will contribute to low crop yields as well as retreating sea ice and more frequent extreme weather events.
- The average water temperature has risen only about .18 degrees. As water temperatures rise, ice melts and water levels rise, and creates more powerful storm surges.
- Let’s see what history tells us.
- If we look at the record—let’s say the last 2,000 years—we see that people really suffered during the cold periods. During the “Little Ice Age,” from around 1400 to 1850, things were really cold in Europe. Harvests failed. Food became scarce. People starved. There was much disease. It was a miserable
- Before that, however, we had a “medieval warm period” around 1100 A.D.
Temperatures then were at least as hot as they are now, maybe hotter. During this time, the Vikings were able to discover and settle Greenland (they actually grew crops on Greenland!). Life was good in Europe. Cathedrals were built. Wars and violence decreased. People prospered. There was plenty of food, even a surplus.
Despite the climate fear mongers’ dire predictions, the historic record clearly shows that a warmer period is better for human beings than a colder period. Humans are nothing if not infinitely adaptable.
We have always had warming cycles with even fewer people. There does certainly appear to be increased evidence of the effects of climate change today. All across our country we are having hotter summers and colder winters.
Is it a crisis? Hard to tell! Is it approaching some danger point? Probably, just like the national debt! The critical question is can we really do something about it?
The major contributor to the man-made part of this problem is the burning of fossil fuels, which is why it is important to concentrate on trying to increase the use of alternative energy sources.
- Fossil fuels are coal, oil and natural gas.
- What do we mean by “alternative energy sources?
Hydro 6.3% Wind 4.5% Nuclear 8.0%
If you also include solar panels, geothermal, biofuels, tidal waves, concentrated solar and hydrogen altogether, you have a total of about 20% of what we use today.
3. Waste and inefficiency:
- 2/3 of fossil fuels burned to generate electricity is wasted.
- Only 18% of gas in your car is efficiently used to power the car.
The luke-warmers believe that elements for man-made climate change is compelling but is exaggerated by faulty climate models and perverse incentives in climate science.
So now you can see the general outline of the arguments about climate change. Next month we’ll address what the crisis advocates want to do…and the chances of success.