Friday, August 17, 2012

Editorial - Global Climate Change

This morning I paddled on a lake with water Temperature around 90º, a few degrees warmer than I have ever experienced. This summer wild fires raged across the west, which isn't unheard of but they were fed by the worst drought in 50 years. Because of that drought farmers are expecting the worst corn crop in decades - bad enough that they are trying to get the ethanol law lifted so what corn there is can be used for food. Of course, the corn used for ethanol can't be eaten by humans, it will be fed to cows that will be eaten by humans, but that is a discussion for another day. The ice sheet on Greenland is melting faster than anyone thought possible, and a chunk of the peterman glacier - also in Greenland -  broke free, but not to worry because it was only twice the size of Manhattan.

They - meaning climate scientists - told us this was going to happen. In fact, it is happening faster than they said it would. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that global climate change is a direct result of heavy industry combined with deforestation. 99% of climatologists think global climate change is man made. Here is a nifty infographic I found:

If that isn't enough, the CEO of Exxon agrees. He says global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels, but that man will adapt.

These are people that are all smarter than I am, I am notoriously bad at math, but when I look at the things in front of me, and what scientists are saying, it makes sense to me. In this case 2+2 does equal 4.

Here is what dumbfounds me. I talk to people on a daily basis who believe some part of the following:
       A) Global climate change is not happening
       B) it is happening, but it is part of a natural cycle
       C) Scientists have a secret agenda that benefits from making climate change man made.

These are intelligent people who see the same things I see, but still think that we shouldn't change any of the things that we do, to make the world a better place. They are against using any form of renewable energy - 'it isn't financially viable will be their argument' - despite the fact that if solar energy got the same subsidies that the oil industry got, solar would be cheaper. Again, I am not the smartest guy in the world, but if we pushed solar energy in the US wouldn't that create thousands of jobs?

If that same CEO of Exxon said 'We know fossil fuels create global climate change, and that is why we are getting into the solar and wind business, and we won't rest until every home in America is powered by solar' wouldn't you buy gas for your car from Exxon?

I know that change is hard, and I am far from perfect - I drive a car, and have electricity in my home. But couldn't we make these kinds of changes without dramatically impacting our lives, and still have a dramatic impact on the planet? I ran a little poll on the sidebar, and while the participation numbers are small the vast majority of people that come to this site accept that global climate change is man made. But what if we are wrong? What would the consequences be of making these changes, and then we find out that global climate change is a plot by scientists:


  1. I was thinking about this subject this morning before I saw your post. Excuse me if I ramble a bit.
    I think a lot of factors are at play in denial, the most obvious being that no matter what I as an individual do, it will not change anything. Yes, if everyone acts to move from carbon fuels and save energy and consume less, then a dent in the problem can be made, but on an individual basis, as a single human being, the problem is so large that I can make all the sacrifices in the world and it will do nothing to alleviate the crisis.
    The issue of climate change also challenges the very basis of our economic and political systems. Our economy depends on continued growth, in fact it’s designed that way. Sustainability, not living outside of the means of our resources, means no growth which is economically a bad thing. During the current economic malaise, governments are looking for ways to “kick start the economy” or in other words, finding a way to get consumers to spend our money. The wise thing for a consumer to do is to save their money, and not buy things on credit, but of course our economy doesn’t work that way. If we are not spending money, the economy suffers, and if we don’t have any money left to spend, we should be spending other people’s money. What’s smart for the individual is not smart for the whole. Apparently.
    Climate change is similar in that we should be moving to clean renewables and living within our energy means, but our economy is driven by relatively cheap and abundant fossil fuels. The irony is (as pointed out in the cartoon you posted) is that that world is disappearing anyway, whether climate change is real or not. Oil is dead. The faster a country can make the change to renewable energy sources, the better it will be economically positioned for the future. What boggles my mind is that we had governments shovelling huge amounts of money into the economy in 2008 and 2009 and where did they put it? Banks and car makers! Here was the perfect time to fundamentally restructure our energy systems, to invest in the green industries of the future, and our leaders blew it. But a lot of them got rich under the status quo.
    And of course, it lays bare the fundamental flaw in democracy in that no democratic elected government can ever see past the next election. No one is ever going to elect a government that has bad truths to deliver, that tells you your generation will not be as rich as the previous one, or that warns there will be unavoidable consequences for our past excesses and some of them will be staggering and insurmountable.
    The only way to solve this is that we in the west who got rich creating this problem now have to reign ourselves in. Unfortunately, we show no signs of doing that. (Prime Minister Harper, I’m looking at you.)

    Here in Victoria, we called last summer The Summer That Never Came. This year, August has been very warm, especially this week with today being our fourth day in a row of near record-breaking temperatures, and even a few thunderstorms over the last couple of weeks which for these parts is really rare.

  2. PO, there seems to be a problem with solar energy. While it does deliver electricity for free captured from the sun, my research shows that the energy needed to manufacture the solar panels is greater than what they will deliver back during their life span, not to mention that most of the material used for the panels in not easily recyclable. Ah, one more thing about the solar panels: vast majority are not (and will not be) manufactured in USA but good old China, just like that PC/laptop/pad that we all use to read this stuff. Manufacturing panels in USA (or Western World) is just too expensive.
    John Herbert, the way I see it about governments: as long as corporations will be allowed to make donations to political parties the current political situation can not change. They don’t donate money out of philanthropic sentiment; they donate money to safeguard their commercial interests. Largest donations come from companies that have no interest in a sustainable renewable energy. Let’s call it what it is: corruption!

    Guys I wish my view for a solution to this incredibly scary and pressing problem would be more positive but what very few seem to address is, in my opinion, the real root of the problem: overpopulation. If the world population would be only 10% of what currently is, we probably would not have this conversation.

  3. Gnarly, I would like to see data on the energy needed for manufacture vs energy back - But that will only get more affordable when they are mass produced. Fossil fuels are also only going to get more expensive to extract from the earth. Also keep in mind, that the answer isn't just solar. It is solar, and wind, and hydro, and geothermal. But frankly, if Germany can make solar work, the US can. I don't care where they are manufactured. They are still going to get installed in massive numbers across the planet, and that is going to create construction work, and work for electricians. You are right that population is a problem....

    John, I agree with you 100%.

    thanks for reading, and the comments.


  4. I can only get excited by geothermal since the other forms have too many drawbacks. (Wind: noise, visual pollution, kills birds. Hydro: USA is currently dismantling dams after environmentalist pressure...) Currently geothermal does not register on the radar; probably too expensive to set up?
    Please DO NOT mention using crops for fuel: that is just so wrong on so many levels