Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Climate Change Debate

This morning it is twenty below again and I find myself wishing for global warming. Or at least a little Minnesota warming since we've pretty much had enough of winter this year. I mean, well, you know what I mean.

What scares me is reading articles like the one in a recent issue of Popular Science where we learn that there are people coming up with ideas on how to modify the atmosphere in order to make it colder. Purportedly the U.S. and China are leading the charge on that one. No one knows for sure what impact those experiments will really have, including the possibility of another ice age.

So a book like The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won't Tell You About Global Warming by Roger Pielke Jr. offers some good medicine for what ails us.

Colleen Mondor's review at Amazon.com states:
Pielke’s area of expertise is the crossroads where environmental studies and politics meet, and clearly he is very frustrated by how the hard cold facts of science have become subservient to the whims of political fortune. In carefully crafted chapters that rely heavily on widely acknowledged truths, he examines everything from carbon dioxide emissions to the recent climategate controversy. Pielke excels in pointing out the minutiae the climate discussion finds itself repeatedly bogged down in, compared to the larger issues of global warming, regardless of the cause, which are irrefutable. From Kyoto to Copenhagen, Gore to George W. Bush to Obama, he addresses the changing political winds, the myths used to justify weak political will, and the irrevocable relationship between environmental policy and the economy. For navigating a treacherous field with grace and aplomb, Pielke deserves much praise. Whether readers will feel reassured or not after reading his measured words and patient call for a broad-based climate policy will depend on future political response. Copious endnotes and sourcing material included.

At the heart of the issue is the politicizing of everything, making it difficult for truth to be seen with any clarity. Last fall I sat with some people involved in a study regarding emissions in California. There are California legislators who want to restrict or eliminate hot rodding because many of these vintage cars do not have the latest emissions technology installed. The study showed that one boat shipping good from overseas produces more emissions in 24 hours of idling than all the hot rods in California produce in a year. Yet will we stop imports because the ships pollute?

Here's what another Amazon.com reviewer states about the book:
Pielke's style is soft spoken but he is not afraid to make strong judgements. He proposes an "iron law of climate policy" that basically says that no climate policies that cause substantial, immediate economic pain will ever be implemented. If you accept his iron law (and I do) then it is clear that all the CO2 control efforts that are supposed to be implemented via cap and trade or other unpleasant government mandates or taxes will never see the light of day. Yet Pielke believes that CO2 control is important and he proposes solutions that don't violate his iron law.

The book is filled with well-presented useful information. His discussion of climategate, the publication of numerous private emails exchanged between important climate scientists, is the best I've ever seen.

Just a few thoughts in response to a cold day in Northern Minnesota.

4 comments:

LEWagner said...

>>"There are California legislators who want to restrict or eliminate hot rodding because many of these vintage cars do not have the latest emissions technology installed. The study showed that one boat shipping good from overseas produces more emissions in 24 hours of idling than all the hot rods in California produce in a year. Yet will we stop imports because the ships pollute?"<<

I doubt very much if "we" or anyone else will stop or restrict either one.
There has been easily observable climate change in just the past 35 years.
The last-frost-to-first-frost growing season in Twig (and Munger) is a full month longer than it was just 35 years ago. If you don't believe me, you can ask some other old-time vegetable farmers, such as my dad or cousins. We’ve been keeping track of those first-frost and last-frost dates since we were kids.
The glaciers are melting in front of our eyes, and the perma-frost that has been frozen for 1000's of years has also been thawing during the past 30 to 40 years. Ocean levels are already rising.
And yet mankind isn't seriously doing anything to try to stop this, or even slow it down. The amount of cars on the road is sky-rocketing, as the "third world" economies are continuing to grow rapidly. The rich in every developing country wants a gas-guzzler -- even little Thakhek has a couple of Hummers, and several thousand Vigos.
Climate change doesn't affect the rich as much as it does the poor. The rich can always move to a more comfortable place, or install and afford to fuel central-heating or air-conditioning.
Laws and policies are written by the rich, not by the poor -- which is why I say I doubt if anything serious at all will be done to attempt to stop climate change.
In my opinion, by the way, it is already too late. I think the warming will rapidly accelerate, until no one will be able to deny, ignore, or do anything about it anymore.
I've said only half-jokingly to my students (to demonstrate the use of certain English expressions), "We used to kind of notice that the '80's seemed a little warmer than the '70's, the '90's than the '80's, and so on. Now it seems it's getting a little warmer almost year by year. It won't be long before we're noticing it seems to be getting warmer by the minute."

LEWagner said...

>>He proposes an "iron law of climate policy" that basically says that no climate policies that cause substantial, immediate economic pain will ever be implemented. If you accept his iron law (and I do) then it is clear that all the CO2 control efforts that are supposed to be implemented via cap and trade or other unpleasant government mandates or taxes will never see the light of day.<<

Evidently, his "iron law" forbids substantial, immediate economic pain to people who matter to HIM, and blithely ignores the fact that substantial, immediate economic pain, including hunger and starvation, is already happening to millions of people world-wide, because of climate change.
Ocean levels are ALREADY rising, flooding low-lying islands and coastal areas.
Huge areas of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam can no longer be planted with rice, because salt water is moving in and pushing fresh water back. Former independent farmers have had to flee into the cities to compete for not-enough jobs.
In the north, permafrost is thawing, causing buildings to collapse and sink. Whole towns have been evacuated because of this. These people also have to flee into cities to compete for not-enough jobs.
Huge forest fires in Russia, and record-breaking temperatures have caused Russia to forbid the export of wheat. Thailand has restricted the export of rice because of droughts in the North, and floods in the South. Food prices are sky-rocketing world-wide, and there are shortages in places there have never been shortages before. The poor are suffering the most, and many are starving.
Whatever, I guess, so long as Mr. Pielke's "iron law" is held to, and "no climate policies that cause substantial, immediate economic pain will ever be implemented".
Hot rod on!!

Anonymous said...

http://steps-awareness.blogspot.com/

ENNYMAN said...

Thanks for sharing...