Climate, Politics and the Economy

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The “climate change” – or “global warming” – debate has been enlivened by recent events.

On the one hand the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis I, has entered the debate along the lines of Al Gore’s anti-carbon, anti-fossil-fuel position. On the other hand a number of research teams in England, Russia and the U.S. have developed new theories allowing for accurate predictions of the sun’s energy output and its impact on the earth’s atmosphere. Should these theories prove to be correct, we will have made a major step forward in our understanding of global climate.

The “global warming” position is that the release of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels is warming the earth’s atmosphere, with potentially catastrophic consequences. Therefore the use of such fuels must be drastically curtailed, regardless of the economic impact.

This approach ignores the role carbon dioxide (CO2) plays in sustaining life on earth. Carbon has a unique ability to combine with other elements to form the complex molecules life is based on. Life on earth began when micro-organisms learned to use sunlight to break CO2 into carbon and oxygen, retaining the carbon for growth and releasing the oxygen. Plant life to this day is based on this process. Animals (including humans) consume plants and combine the ingested carbon with oxygen to produce energy, exhaling CO2. All life as we know it is based on this cycle. Eliminate carbon dioxide, and the earth becomes a barren rock.

In the geologic past the concentration of CO2 was greater than today, allowing for exuberant plant and bacterial life. Over time huge quantity of vegetal and bacterial remains were mixed with sediment, buried and compressed, gradually becoming the coal, petroleum and natural gas our economy runs on. The burning of those fuels does not produce new carbon dioxide. It simply returns to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that was there to begin with.

Because carbon dioxide concentrations in ages past were far greater than they are today – yet the development of life was not threatened – the argument that burning fossil fuels will produce a climatic catastrophe is questionable at best, if not outright silly. Why then is there such pressure to stop using carbon – in the form of petroleum, coal or natural gas – as fuel?  Modern industry was born when the huge potential of coal as an energy source was recognized. Oil and gas were later added to the mix. Stop their use, and our economy collapses, with the survivors returning to a 17th century life style.

Scientifically or economically, such “anti-carbon” policies do not make sense. There must be a political goal behind the anti-carbon crusade, and it could be quite simple: not to eliminate the carbon-based energy industry, but to control it – together with its huge revenues, its influence on the population and its strategic potential.

Shutting down coal-based generating plants on the pretext of “carbon pollution” has already raised the price of electricity in many parts of the country. A repeat of the last two winters could produce acute shortages and, potentially, a full-blown energy crisis.

Are we in for a series of long, hard, old-time winters? In all likelihood we are.

In the short term, the scientific advances mentioned above agree on one thing: we are entering several decades of colder weather, similar to the “Maunder Minimum” of 1645-1715, when temperatures fell across all of Europe, and in London the Thames River froze over. This is based on a reduction of the sun’s energy output, a process already underway.

In the longer term we are nearing the end of the “warm inter-glacial period” that divides successive ice ages. Such periods average twelve thousand years, and the one we are in is about that old.

Such forecasts of course cannot be fully accurate. The risk, however, is on the cooling, not warming, side. We will need heat and power more than ever. Shutting down generating plants is both wrong and dangerous. As for other policies, such as carbon taxes, they are the last thing that a fragile global economy would need.

Born in Poland, Jacek Popiel was educated in Africa, Canada, and the United States. He speaks five languages. His career spans military and international business development in the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, North America, and Japan.

He is currently a freelance writer and political consultant. His book “Viable Energy Now,” grew out of his military and international business experience and his professional involvement with energy issues.

Comments

  1. This article is soooo wrong on sooo many levels that it is hard to list them all.
    1. The best way to determine whether other driving forces outweigh CO2 forcing is to actually examine all the forcings that drive climate today. This analysis has been done and it’s found that CO2 is the greatest forcing and also the fastest rising.
    2.Too much co2 will kill ya! All chemical reactions are subject to safe and unsafe levels. Breathe in pure oxygen for a couple of minutes? It will kill ya! Breathe in pure ozone for 1 minute? It will kill ya! The authors many ridiculous and unfounded statements reduce the credibility to -0-. Stuff like:
    “Eliminate carbon dioxide, and the earth becomes a barren rock.” and “The burning of those fuels does not produce new carbon dioxide. It simply returns to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that was there to begin with.” I guess that ONE is technically correct, but it ignores the fact that if we released all of the sequestered co2 we would all die instantly!
    And then there is his statement that “Are we in for a series of long, hard, old-time winters? In all likelihood we are.”. REALLY? Virtually every credible peer reviewed scientific organization in the world disagree with this statement. Who ya gonna believe?

  2. Good article. Due to it’s brevity, it makes some statements about the science in short form that leads to final and absolute interpretations by commentator Johninnv. He states: The best way to determine whether other driving forces outweigh CO2 forcing is to actually examine all the forcings that drive climate today. This analysis has been done and it’s found that CO2 is the greatest forcing and also the fastest rising.” That hypothesis cannot be correct because the models used if correct, would reflect reality in nature — those CO2 models have been unable to predict real climate affects. Therefore the hypothesis is incorrect. Commenter’s statement about the release of all CO2 killing everyone in misleading. The article does not say all CO2 can or should be released immediately. It’s not possible, so his strawman is not relevant. I am not a climatologist but have used complex models in engineering and space applications. If models cannot accurately reflect what happens in nature, those models are not correct. That’s what has happened with these climate models and predictions, and the climate scientists using them have not even be able to apply “fudge factors” that make them models accurate. I believe there is a good chance that man-made activity has affected climate, but the degree caused by man, versus natural factors such as variations in sun energy is simply not know at this time. The disaster predicted by the climatologists and their political supporters have not occurred to any degree as predicted. Yet they continue to argue the models and predicted results are correct, those who disagree are either insane or ignorant. Global warming acolytes appear to adopt religious aspects of “faith,” including fanatical belief, versus real science and proven weather affects. Apparently people must believe in something. If fewer believe in God, why not believe in Mother Nature. There are negative aspects and positive benefits to global warming. Yet the alarmists tell us it is and will be a massive disaster, despite their lack of accurate predictions. Their prescriptions harm the economy, especially the economic plight of poorer persons and nations. For what — more political power seems to be their goal. The cost of killing coal (Obama’s stated plan) and other use of fossil fuels is a pipe dream that will raise energy costs tremendously. I’m all for alternative and “green” or non polluting forms of energy such as wind, solar, etc. But they should not be supported by wasteful government subsidies. When the engineering is available, they will become cost viable. Nuclear is here, inexpensive, and safety has vastly improved. Fossil fuels use and nuclear should be the focus until any green technologies can develop. But the government should not subsidize deployment of these technologies beyond research & development funding (and the US Government has already spent too much on solar and wind R&D.

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