Sunday, November 29, 2015

Climate Change Confusion

The climate change debate confuses me. President Obama, about to depart for Paris for international summit of climate change containment, says climate change is a worst threat to mankind than terrorism.

Yet the earth is only 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit than 35 years ago, and globally, as scientists keep confirming, there has been no statistical increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods, droughts, or natural disaster deaths, although the frequency and intensity of news reports would have you believe otherwise.

There may be alternatives to fossil fuels but with fracking and other high tech advances, these fuels are available in greater abundance at lower costs than alternatives . Solar and wind supply only 1.5% of energy needs, and for political reasons, nuclear energy is retreating.

I hope the President will share with the 200 nations at the summit the U.S. stellar performance in reducing green house gases. Our CO2 emissions reached a 27 year low in April 2015, and have declined by 9% since 2005, thanks in no small part to our exploding production of natural gas, a low carbon emitter which, because of fracking, has increased by 237% since 2006.

Good luck in Paris, Mr. President, in convincing other nations, particularly China (coal consumption up 2.6%) and India (coal consumption us 5.0%). For the present, at least, there is no economic alternative to fossil fuels in developing nations, especially those without electricity . Cheap natural gas is a powerful economic solution to reducing coal as a source of energy for producing electricity.

Still I suppose it is better to suffer economically now than to suffer environmental damage later.

The New York Times has provided us with short answers to hard questions about climate change.

• How much is the planet heating up? 1,7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880.

• How much trouble are we in? Big trouble in 25 to 30 years, and more trouble later unless we do something now.

• Is there anything I can do? Fly less, drive less, waste less.

• What’s the most optimistic scenario? The earth becomes less sensitive to greenhouse gases, plants and animals adapt, nations reduce emissions.

• What’s the worst case scenario? Collapse of food production, coastal flooding, and unpredictable monsoons.

• Will a high tech breakthrough help? Yes, but it will cost an arm, a leg, and more cash than most nations, including the U.S., are willing to spend.

• How much will seas rise? Best bet is one foot per decade.

• Are predictions reliable? Evidence from past indicates as amount of CO2 rises in atmosphere, the earth warms, ice melts, and seas rise.

• Why do people question climate change? Because evidence is sketchy, and because of conservative ideology, money interests in fossil fuels, and short term denial rather than long term trends.

• Is crazy weather tied to climate change? In some cases, maybe, such as heavy rainstorms, coastal flooding, and drought in California and elsewhere.

• Will anybody benefit from global warming? Yes, maybe some nations will frozen hinterlands.

• Is there reason for hope? Yes, but the hour is late, and other nations, led by U.S. must get their act together.

If President Obama persuades other nations to follow his lead in controlling fossil fuels emissions, climate change may be slower with less damage than predicted, but it will also be more costly, more economically painful.


1. Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser, “ Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate,” WSJ, November 28-29, 2015.

2. Justin Gillis, “Short Answers to Hard Questions about Climate Change,” NYT, November 28, 2015.

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