Why would someone who can get both sides of issues like gun control or the regulations governing consumptive uses of wildlife nail-biting mad want to stir the already boiling pot of climate change a.k.a. manmade global warming?
For one thing, I depend on the environment for both my vocation and my primary avocation.
More important, I find it almost impossible to remain on the sideline, when any issue that will impact me becomes so politically charged that the truth becomes irrelevant, if not completely taboo.
Today, in about 850 words or less, I plan to look through climate change’s forest in search of both incontrovertible facts and illogical suppositions about the cause(s) of climate change. And I intend to do all of that while staying as far from partisan politics as I can.
First and probably foremost, climate change is real. In fact, the shift we’re trying to deal with in the 21st century actually began several thousand years before the climax of the last Ice Age and will continue for however many thousands of years it takes to return the planet to its much warmer average temperature over the past 500 million years.
A line graph of the ongoing climate change wouldn’t be a straight line. To the contrary, the line would be a conglomeration of peaks and valleys that merely trends upward.
For example, between 800 and 1,000 A.D. (give or take a decade or two,) enough of southern and western Greenland was ice-free to allow the Vikings to establish permanent settlements there. The seas west of Greenland remained sufficiently open to allow the Vikings to develop an export market for fish and marine mammals and to cross to Labrador to obtain lumber.
Then in only a few years around 1,000 A.D., it turned so cold that both the land and the sea froze, and the colonies had to be abandoned to avoid starvation. Northern Europe experienced a “mini” Ice Age at the same time.
What about the manmade climate change theory? As of now and for the foreseeable future, fossil fuels will be the primary source of power for all humanity, both within and outside of the developed world. It’s an undeniable fact that burning fossil fuels releases large amounts of “greenhouse gases,” some of which become trapped in the upper atmosphere. Even though, as I’ve already noted, climate change is inevitable, reducing our output of heat trapping materials in the hope that doing so would slow its pace sounds logical.
But is it right? From September 1939 to August 1945, cities, factories, boats, trains and airplanes were burning somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere 24 hours a day, and the air polluting mega destruction didn’t end until two cities were incinerated with atomic bombs.
Not to be outdone, despite forswearing the use of nuclear weapons, my generation dropped more tons of high explosives on tiny Southeast Asia between 1965 and 1973 than were used in all of WWII.
Those two cataclysmic events should have caused large spikes in the pace of global warming. Based on the fact that no one seems to be trumpeting that “fact” in support of their cause, I assume it didn’t happen.
But even if all it does is improve low level air quality, shouldn’t we be doing something? Let’s take a quick look at some of those somethings.
The production of hydroelectric power creates no air pollution, and it has the huge advantage of being able to be turned on or off instantly. The problem is, here in the United States, we’ve already dammed just about everything that can be dammed.
Solar power is a workable alternative for powering a single family dwelling in many parts of the country and may be feasible in larger buildings that consume a relatively small amount of power. On the other hand, the size of the solar array that would be required to supply enough electricity for Sedalia and its associated industries would boggle the mind.
Wind power is the option that everyone from hunters to bird watchers loves to hate. It leaves a service road laced footprint the size of which only a strip mine could match.
Unlike western oil fields that host an amazing variety of animals, including big game mammals prized by hunters, very few species exist on the ground beneath a wind farm. They don’t exist very long in the air over one either. In fact, wind farms have been exempted from some of the provisions of the Endangered Species Act to prevent their owner/operators from being prosecuted for the inordinate number of eagles their windmills kill.
My optimistic side hopes that the various actual- and would-be climate change stakeholders stop trying to top one another with the absurdity of their positions on the issue long enough to work together to find practical ways our country can adapt to whatever the climate throws our way and continue to prosper.
My more realistic side says, “I’ll bet you a dollar to a donut on that.”
Gerald Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org