Climate Change Debate

Climate Change Debate

Hardly a day goes by without some dire warning about climate change (CC). Among proponents, climate change is a given. Among sceptics, it is another anthropocentric delusion. My own, somewhat informed opinion, is that the medicine may be worse than the disease. Further, even if we cut CO2 emissions to zero today, that horse sailed a long time ago. Sorry. I love mixed metaphors.

Climate Change proponents ask us to believe that human use of fossil fuels has raised atmospheric CO2 levels. That much can be documented. They want us to believe that the increase in CO2 has led to a reduction in the amount of solar energy re-radiated into space, and altered the energy balance of the earth. Like a car parked in the sun with its windows rolled up, they claim that the trapped energy is causing a rise in surface temperatures. The consequences are dire and far reaching, they say.

Selective use of information should call conclusions into question. In this case, it doesn’t seem to faze climate change proponents. Humans are at fault. It’s not climate cycles: never mind that over geologic time the polar ice caps were absent more than they were present. Never mind that scientists calculated that the volcano Krakatoa put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than all human consumption of fossil fuels. Never mind that a single wildfire can emit as much CO2 as all the cars in California. “Ah,” climate change supporters may respond, “those are things beyond our control.”

It is popular sport among environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club to oppose any  kind of “logging”- -including fuel reduction to protect homes and endangered species- – on public lands. The outcome of such logic is a lose-lose-lose. Toast endangered species. Erode exposed forest soils. Add all that extra CO2 to the atmosphere. We could have jobs, protect endangered species, soils and water quality.

Still, majority opinion supports the notion of human caused climate change. In testimony before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Friends Committee for National Legislation (FCNL) spokesman Jose Aguto said:

“we…recognize that climate disruption is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We are deeply concerned about its impacts on vulnerable communities, ecosystems, and economies, on the pacific coexistence of humankind.”

He also told them we should seek to eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He was kind enough to acknowledge that we should seek this goal with the welfare of all people in mind. Not everyone is so magnanimous. He did manage to get digs in at everyone’s favorite whipping-boys: fracking, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Of course, relevance doesn’t matter these days if it helps you make your point. Push those buttons. Yeah baby!

Paul Zoltan writes in the Dallas Morning News blog:

“… increasing the atmospheric concentration of the stuff [CO2] by 40 percent. It doesn’t take a scientist to recognize at least the likelihood of a causal link between changes in the air and changes on the Earth.”

Not everyone is so convinced. Climate debate daily has a running, side-by-side tally of arguments used by both sides. It sounds a lot like Ford vs. Chevy: personal preference, which “facts” you choose to cite, who funded your “research.” Their interest appears impartial; the idea to let us make up our own minds. As another writer to the Dallas Morning news blog, Robert Smith, wrote

“there is no theoretical link between atmospheric carbon dioxide and weather extremes…Statements made by so-called climate experts do not change historical weather records, nor do they change the laws of physics.”

For the sake of argument, let’s agree with majority opinion. It will, as FCNL suggests, result in both ecological and human problems. What can be done? There seem to be two main camps. 1.) Conservation can solve the problem. Science news and the Union of Concerned Scientists both seem to support this idea. We should increase insulation requirements, focus on wind and solar energy, improve vehicle efficiency. And stop cutting trees. What was that about CO2 emissions from forest fires?

  1. Only immediate, draconian measures can save us and the earth’s ecosystems from certain disaster. Many say we must reduce carbon emissions by 50%. Many others say 100%. No carbon. One proposed solution is to tax carbon emissions from businesses and petroleum fuels.

Here’s how I see it. If there is a problem, conservation will never be able to cause a rapid enough decrease in CO2 emissions to effect the needed change. The savings could be real but insignificant on the scale of the global environment. In today’s spoiled-child society, there are too many options that are unpalatable. We bitch at Congress for its gridlock. Congress is a reflection of our own unwillingness to make hard decisions, or to realize that life (sometimes? usually?) requires compromise. There are no pat answers.

Even if, as the administration proposes, we cut current carbon emissions by 50% today, by the time the population doubles, we’ll be back to the “disastrous” levels we’re at today. The citizens of developing countries have a right to expect their own standard of living to rise. The folks in developed countries certainly aren’t going to trade their air conditioners & Lexuses in for mint juleps on the veranda and riding to work on a bicycle. We’re too soft, too sybaritic, too sanitized.  If we tax carbon enough to make a difference, we destroy the current economic system. Everything will cost more. If business is taxed, those costs will be passed along. If fuel is taxed enough to discourage use, the effects on the economy and on the poor will be crippling. Where’s the social justice in that?

None of the current proposals amounts to anything more than a band aid on a hemorrhage. Conservation is good. We should all do what we are able. There is much low hanging fruit. Conservation alone cannot accomplish the goals proponents of climate change advocate. If we dismantle the current economic system through punitive taxation, social unrest- -read war- -is a given.

If a tax is enacted, it should be directed toward energy research. In no case should it be allowed to become a revenue stream for the government. Solar and wind have environmental impacts, too. There are no panaceas. The solutions are to find a new energy source, or reducing the world’s population by 80%. Any volunteers? I thought not. I’m sure there are folks working on finding a sustainable energy source. If we’re going to kick this addiction to carbon, that’s what we’re going to need.

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