[This is a short version (3 pp) of the original that is 16 pp long.]
I’m an 87-year-old man who has spent a lifetime solving problems – whether they be in theoretical mathematics, operations research, business management, or whatever.
Think pieces are defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as articles “containing discussion, analysis, or opinion, as opposed to facts or news.” Michael’s Think Pieces are a little more than that. When I get interested in a subject enough to think about it, I write a Michael’s Think Piece – an article not intended to tell people what I know about something, but to find out what I know about it. Everything I know – no more and no less – about Climate Change is written in the longer version. When and if I learn more, I will record it there.
I work very hard to keep politics out of my think pieces. It is hard to do because I have insights and opinions that might sound political but I don’t base any of them on political ideology. Those who know me remember that I was conservative and Republican. That is no longer the case. I am neither liberal nor conservative, or anywhere in between. There’s no label that fits me. I look at each issue by itself. I don’t go by polls; I go by facts, logic and explanation. Yet, I’m often wrong.
With almost all of the commentary about climate change out in the public square being agenda driven, highly emotional, and political, I thought I ought to try to learn about it.
There are really three climate change arguments;
Argument 1, made by those we shall call The Believers, is that, because of the use of fossil fuels, the earth’s climate is changing dangerously and that, in particular, the earth’s temperature is rising at an alarming rate and the results will be catastrophic in a few short years if we don’t do something about it.
The Believers include some climate scientists that assert that human-caused climate change is occurring and that it threatens human health and well-being.
Argument 2 explores the inaccuracies in historic climate data, the limitations of attempting to model climate on computers, solar variability and its impact on climate, the effects of clouds, ocean currents, and sea levels on global climate, and factors that could mitigate any human impacts on world climate. The adherents to this argument, The Skeptics, argue that the pessimistic, and increasingly alarming, climate change scenarios depicted in the media have no scientific basis. The Skeptics include scientists who assert that “the proposed limits on greenhouse gasses would harm the environment, hinder the advancement of science and technology and damage health and welfare of mankind.”
Argument 3, developed in the longer version, is what results from an analytical investigation of the climate change issue from an evidence-based perspective rather than pushing carefully selected political group-think. Let’s call us The Investigators.
The Conflict: The conflicts between The Believers and The Skeptics stem from questions like the following:
- Is the climate of the globe changing?
- Has the use of fossil fuels and its effects been good or bad (in terms of long-term trends in human health and welfare)?
- Has the rise in the average global temperature been good or bad, (in terms of long-term trends in human health and welfare)?
- Has the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations been good or bad (in terms of long-term trends in human health and welfare)?
- Why is the climate changing?
- What can and should we do about it?
These questions served as the outline for the investigation in the longer version. For questions 2 – 6, I provided “What the Believers say about it” and “What the Skeptics say about it” and added some comments I hope would help. That way readers could weigh both sides and come to their own conclusions. The answer to question 6 included my conclusions and recommendations which are found below.
ONE: Fossil fuels and fossil supported energy have proven to be an enormous benefit to mankind. We could not have supported the population growth the world has experienced without it.
TWO: The temperature increases and decreases have and will continue to produce beneficial impacts in some regions and harmful ones in others. Where it is harmful, humans will adapt to it.
THREE: Climate change is not an existential threat. Certainly, human life will not end in 2029 as predicted by one presidential candidate. Except for children, almost no one who says there is an existential threat behaves like he or she believe it. We should stop scaring children about it.
FOUR: The Believers, behave like members of a fundamentalist religion in that they have an unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs about the effects of fossil fuel emissions that is marked by absolute certitude and conviction that their views are right and wise and obviously correct. They believe that anyone holding opposing views cannot possibly be doing so for serious reasons and must be acting out of some ulterior motive such as racism or greed or whatever. Non-adherents are condemned and vilified. And this fundamentalist religion comes with its own doom’s day prediction. The Believers put those who do not believe that climate change is an existential threat in the same boat as Holocaust deniers.
FIVE: The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has been more of a positive than a negative relative to long term trends in health and welfare.
SIX: There is no scientific evidence about global warming that fails to fit the earth’s natural cycle of warming and cooling.
SEVEN: The 20th century was one of those stable periods between the Little Ice Age and the next warm period. The earth is warming following the end of an ice age – as you would expect.
EIGHT: Recycling, taxes and regulations will not stop global warming. The false hope created by them delays genuine adaptations such as northward migration, seawall construction and abandonment of low areas.
NINE: Many green-backed policies such as in California, which accounts for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have done little, if anything, for the climate but have succeeded in hurting middle and working-class people far more than the affluent. Californians are paying higher energy prices, higher transportation costs and higher housing costs because of policies designed to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels. But no scientist has claimed that the climate will be affected by California’s achievement of its target. Nothing that California does would make a difference at all to the global climate.
ONE: Before we do anything else, address the questions raised above, in Sections 1 through 5, much more thoroughly than I have been able to do and come to rational, non-political conclusions. I’ve laid out some of the arguments on both sides as best I could, but I’m not an expert in the field.
As a part of this, do the same for the following additional questions.
- Is the climate today better or worse than the climate of earlier times, say 1880 (the beginning of the industrial revolution) or 1950? How much better? How much worse?
- Is there an ideal global average surface temperature? What is it?
- What is the evidence that the rise in temperature and melting of polar ice, has been harmful? (In most cases, I have only been able to find projections and opinions – not evidence.)
- For each major climate policy proposal, what will be the temperature reduction impact if implemented by 2030 and at the end of this Century, optimistically assuming that promised emission cuts are maintained throughout the century? (Ask this question relative to the US Clean Power Plan (USCPP), the full US promise for the COP21 climate conference in Paris (from which the US has withdrawn.)
- How much temperature reduction is expected from each (and all) of the proposals in the Green New Deal once they are implemented in 2030 and maintained throughout this century?
TWO: Remove all politics from the discussion – on both sides. Unfortunately, this won’t happen. We have the wrong people in politics.
THREE: Be explicit about the consequences of any actions proposed. Or inaction. (Just because there is a problem doesn’t mean that we have to solve it, particularly if the cure is going to be worse than the ailment.)
Addressing the consequences won’t necessarily change what actions are taken, but we need to be aware of the effect. The quasi-religious hysteria that has been the hallmark of the dialog may provide meaning for the Believers, but given the global nature of the problem, we need to address it not with panic, but reason, and careful consideration of consequences.
Make sure that that any change we make will make a difference to the global climate. For example, even the Believers should recognize the fact is that virtually all growth in greenhouse gasses comes not from the West but from China, India and a host of poorer countries.
FOUR: Do not continue to encourage and definitely stop subsidizing, the development of solar and wind energy. Allow market dynamics to determine their growth as an alternative energy resource. There are too many negatives associated with continuing to encourage continuing this development including cost, environmental harm and danger. For example, more deaths have occurred installing wind and solar power than all deaths involving nuclear.
The money would be better spent finding ways to improve fossil fuel conversion efficiency and adjust to higher temperatures, build sea walls – if it really happens – funding the planting of huge forests, making nuclear safer. Continue to live in a first world manner while doing all of this.
FIVE: Retreat from coastal development and push for measures to protect shorelines if and when the seas rise, improve dams and water systems, elevate roads and install flood pumps (as the city of Miami is already doing). Be prepared to abandon some low-lying areas all together.
SIX: Continue to fund research to learn more about climate. We may find an antidote for all kinds of emissions.
SEVEN: Skeptics (either of the believer’s predictions or their choice of actions, or both) need to become more vocal, and not be silenced by political correctness. They need to confront, challenge, use science, logic and common sense. They may once again prove the sun doesn’t orbit the earth