President Obama had to leave the UN conference on global warming early because a major snowfall threatened to close airports on the US east coast. As it turned out he was not able to use his customary helicopter to fly from Andrews Air Field to the White House, but did the trip by car. Is there any wonder that there remains a healthy skepticism about the dangers of “global warming?” Of course the global warming warriors will no doubt attribute the major snow storm to rising temperatures. But then we now know that they are given to reworking the data to achieve the resutls they need.
A comment made the other day by someone speaking about global warming was for me an epiphany. The comment, “we humans are essentially carbon compositions.” How enlightening, here we are locked in battle to reduce carbon emissions, specifically carbon dioxide emissions, and the human body is 18% carbon with most of the rest being water. Even more revealing, we exhale carbon dioxide, so by the mere act of breathing we contribute to “green house gas” emissions. When one considers how basic carbon is to life on this planet, one begins to wonder why the furor about simply adding to the pool.
And what is the evil unleashed by adding more of this most natural element to the world, warmth. Yes we are worried about getting too warm. Funny, much of the last 10,000 years of human history was spent trying to get warm - we invented fire, buildings, clothes and other such means to keep ourselves from freezing to death.
And why is warmth an evil, because it is causing changes in our environment. So the actual evil is not warmth, but change. But the only constant in this world is change, so we are fighting against the very nature of life. And we will not prevail, change is inevitable. Even the most ardent global warming warrior says the best we can expect to accomplish with reducing green house gases is to slow down global warming, not stop it.
I for one welcome global warming. As I have always said, the earth is bascially a cold place. Far more people die of cold than die of heat. It is the reason people flock to Florida where I live. It is also the reason they flock to Mallorca for sun where I have another home.
I smile when I hear the doomsday scenarios drawn by the global warming crowd. Living at 18 inches above high tide on an island surrounded by the sea I should be one of the most concerned, but I know that it will take at least a century or two at the present break neck pace of global warming to bring the waves to my door. Another fearsome prospect directly aimed at me is more hurricaines. Well, after having lost parts of two houses and a car to hurricaines, I have learned how to adapt to their threat.
Which brings me to my constant comment about global warming, instead of wasting time trying to stop the inevitable, i.e. the earth is getting warmer, let us spend our energies figuring out how to adapt to the new conditions. Mankind has learned how to adapt to a host of changing situations. Increased warmth should not be too much of a problem.
In the meantime, I guess I better go out and check the depth of the sea in front of the house.
The front page of the local rag told the whole story of Florida in one small post. It showed yesterday’s temperatures and snowfall for several midwest cities - Des Moines, minus 7 degrees and 16 inches of snow, Madison, 2 degrees and 19 inches, Minneapolis, minus 10 and 6 inches, Chicago, 9 degrees and 2 inches. The paper compared this to the 80 degrees and bright sunshine in Ft Myers yesterday.
Most of those reading this page under the glorious sun here are from those places covered by snow and suffering from bone-chilling cold. They come here to escape the misery. Now do you understand why I welcome global warming? I am tired of the “snow birds” clogging the highways and byways and making it hard to get a dinner reservation. Take the sun to them and let them stay in the comfort of their northern home.
I sent a letter to a local newspaper on a local topic, allowing drilling for oil and gas in offshore Florida. However, it also speaks to the general situation so here it is.
The present debate about drilling for oil and gas off the Florida shore urges me to add my voice to the debate. In the wake of the energy crisis of the early 1970s caused by oil exporting countries cutting back sharply on supply, then President Carter launched a plethora of programs to stimulate development of alternative energy. There was plenty of Fed funds for the followers of the Gods Helios and Aeolis. And we saw a host of new ideas.
Today only one of the new energies developed then is still in wide scale use, harnessing methane gas on pig farms to provide energy for the farm. I fear that the same will occur in today’s situation, tons of money for alternative energy to wind up as a pile of “animal waste”
The underlying problem facing development of alternative energy is the fact that, while a barrel of oil from Saudi Arabia costs about $75, the actual cost of producing it is about $2. No matter how cheaply you make alternative energy it must always face the fact that it may have to compete with oil at a price of $2 a barrel.
Well we already know the outcome of the UN Conference on Climate Change now underway in Copenhagen, Denmark. The participants will commit themselves to a political goal of reducing green house gases. The little details of how much reduction, when and where, will be left to a follow up meeting to write a treaty.
Left unanswered is the small question of how much the “rich” countries will pay the “poor” countries to join them in controlling green house gas emmissions. I say small but the opening request from the “poor” was $600 billion. The “rich” countered with an offer of $10 billion. Closing the gap should not be a big problem, or should it?
The waters have also been muddied by revelations of emails between those forcing the issue of global warming in which the scientists discuss getting rid of “incovenient truths.” Imagine, those dedicated to getting the world to take action they believe critical to the future of the planet, notice I did not say mankind, actually supressed some information to insure they get their wish. Of course, we can always dismiss a bit of “missionary zeal” when the stakes are high.
Well whatever, the issue will once more be kicked down the road.
Presdent Obama has stated that the US will commit itself to a palpable reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. He will present this commitment to the world at the UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in Denmark in two weeks. He believes this will induce other countries to make similar commitments.
And the Chinese have already followed suit. They have formally now committed themselves to major reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade and beyond. However, as I previously noted, the Chinese commitment is tied to the country’s “economic progress.” In other words, it will reduce emissions as long as it does not slow down its economic growth.
So now we have countries making commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to present at the Conference. They will be able to declare victory and go home. But wait, the precedent is the Kyoto Agreement, which was a formal treaty to reduce greenhouse gases. I don’t see any formal agreement coming about at the Conference but rather alot of stated commitments.
Well the Kyoto Agreement failed notably to reduce such gases. Even the host country, Japan, failed to reduce greenhouse gases, in fact the gases produced in Japan increased. If a formal agreement does not do the job, what can one expect from statements about intentions to reduce gases?
Meanwhile President Lulu of Brazil said any cost of preventing deforestation in his country will have to be paid for by the rich countries. He said he has no intention of preventing his people from cutting down the trees if they are not compensated by the rich boys.
Well Copenhagen is certainly going to have a very warm winter this year.
Soon after being inaugurated then President Jimmy Carter instituted a policy to guard against plutonium, being produced to use in our “nuclear fuel cycle,” being diverted to weapons production by “bad guys.” He called this program, “Full Scope Safeguards.”
The problem stemmed from the simple fact that plutonium, unlike enriched uranium, does not emit radioactive rays so it does not require the elaborate containers that are needed to transport and hold enriched uranium. A mere whisp of ingested plutonium will kill you but it will not “zap” you. President Carter considered this ease of use for weapons too dangerous to leave unchecked, so he implemented a program to control all plutonium and, more importantly, prevent the widespread production of it.
Simple answer to a potentially dangerous problem, except that we had already developed in the USA, and in several other countries, a nuclear power industry that was based on using plutonium. Fuel used up by an uranium fed nuclear reactor, “spent fuel,” was to be reprocessed to extract plutonium that would be stored for use in the new generation of reactors, the so-called “fast breeder reactors.” These amazing machines use plutonium as their fuel while creating more fuel than initially consumed. Again, these machines manufacture new fuel while consuming the fuel they receive, thus the term “breeder reactors, since they create their own fuel.
This nuclear power system would have allowed for an exponential growth in nuclear produced power that would have taken a heavy load off of using fossil fuel. President Carter stopped the program in its tracks and thus caused an unexpected increase in our use of fossil fuel with its attendant emmissions that are now the bugaboo of the anit-global warming crowd.
Carter’s program also caused me a monumental headache and a problem on a par with the Gordian Knot. You see, at the time I was the “energy officer” at our embassy in Madrid, Spain. US firms were busily constructing eight new nuclear power plants in Spain at a price of over one billion dollars each under an bilateral treaty between the US and Spain. That agreement was based on using the spent fuel from the reactors to be reprocessed for plutonium for breeder reactors. Under the agreement the Spanish were to send their spent fuel to England to eventually be reprocessed for breeder reactors. The Carter policy banned this movement.
Obviously we had to renegotiate the treaty to accomodate the new policy, since US law overrules international treaties. The Spanish were in no mood to renegotiate the treaty since they had no plans for storing the spent fuel. If you think this is an easy problem to solve, think Yucca Mountain where we want to store our own spent fuel.
Charged with renogiating the treaty I spent a day or so analizing the agreement and Carter’s new policy. I then told my boss, we needed to make four new agreements, three would be fairly easy, but the fourth would be worthy of David Copperfield. And we had to solve the problem fast since US industry could be out at least the eight billions dollars for building the new reactors. The eight billion dollars was in turn covered by a credit given to the Spanish by our Export Import Bank, a US Government agency, to buy our technology, installations and fuel. This was its largest exposure for one line of business or one country in the bank’s history. Also at stake was the prestige and credibility of our Nuclear Power Agency which had ginned up the whole concept and system. To say I was under pressure from many sides is to put it mildly.
To make a long story short, we did the three easy agreements quickly. I slaved over the fourth agreement using input from all the players. It was made so opaque with diplomatic verbage, that even I, as the author, did not understand it. However, I figured that if I could not understand it, no one else would be able to do so. We got the Spanish to accept it as an “interim” agreement for six months, while we tried to find a more permanent solution. The agreement actually lasted for ten years until the situation was resolved by the passage of time, or until it was finally decoded, whichever happened first.
Since I was the only person who had negotiated a new agreement that complied with the new “Full Scope Safeguards” policy, I was invited by the NRA to come work for them. I would have been jetting around the world negotiating new agreements with other recipients of US nuclear technology, equipment and materials. I chose to stay with the State Department and went into its Office for Nuclear Affairs where my first job was to draw up a schedule to renegotiate all of our agreements. However, it soon became abundently clear that, if little thought had been given to constructing the safeguards’ policy, even less had been given to its implications or how to bring all countries into compliance. I opted to go overseas fast rather than wait for the inevitable failure.
And fail it did. Believe it or not the first country with whom we were to sign a new nuclear treaty that was in full compliance with “Full Scope Safeguards” was, you guessed it, Iran. The deal fell through when the revolution overthrew the Shah and the Revolutionary Guard, under the guidance of a then young Almadinejad, seized our embassy and held the staff hostage for over a year. As far as I was able to tell, we never got anyone to agree to our “Full Scope Safeguards,” thus putting an end to our participation in building nuclear power facilities in other countries. Our potential buyers crossed over to do deals with France, which left in place its provisions for reprocessing spent fuel to use in breeder reactors, in France.
It is good to see a major journal reinforce your predictions. Over the last few months I have steadily warned that the UN Conference on Climate Change, billed as “Kyoto II,” to be held in Copenhagen in December will produce few results except for an agreement on stemming deforestation of tropical forests. The latest “TIME” magazine online version now says the same thing. With the conference only a few weeks away it is clear that there will be no agreement on reducing carbon emmissions. While preventing deforestation of these valuable forest reserves is a very positive step in conserving the environment, as well as in protecting several endangered species, it will do little to slow down global warming. But then global warming itself is helping to protect these forests since it will reduce the need to cut these trees for firewood to heat homes.
The play may change but the theme remains the same. At first the global warming crowd ballyhooed Brazil’s lead in using fuel made from plants, a renewable, “green” energy. However, the fervor quickly abated when the same people started to lament that diverting agricultural production to this end would impact hungry nations and they called for an end to government subsidies to develop these renewable fuels. This raises the question, “What do the global warming foes really want?”
In 1970 the Club of Rome came out with its seminal study, “Limits to Growth,” which basically stated that we were using up our resources so fast we would soon be without the means of production, with petroleum being the main problem. At the time economists were fascinated by exponential curves that clearly demonstrated this rapid depletion of resources. Result, the oil producing nations cancelled the concessions they had given to oil companies and took over the resources themselves. They then colluded to set prices thorugh OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries. And they raised prices by ten fold and more. Their rationale offered for doing this was to conserve a rapidly diminishing resource.
Another response to “Limits to Growth, was the call to lower consumption in general under the banner, “Small Is Beautiful.” Consumption fell and the economy took a nose dive. By 1980 we were in a recession with high unemployment and inflation. The cost of credit was at an all time high with mortgages at 13% interest and more. The recession ended like clockwork in November 1982 when then Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker dropped the Fed borrowing rate substantially. We had immediate recovery fed by cheap credit.
Fortunately the Club of Rome and Small is Beautiful faded away and we returned to our normal consumption patterns. The result, a thriving economy confirmed by the 1984 election when 49 states voted to reelect the incumbent president.
Now we have warnings about “global warming” that focus on reducing our consumption of energy. Instead of warning about running out of resources, we hear that our use is damaging to our environment. Sounds to me like seeking the same objective, but with a different approach. And what is the objective? In the 1970s we called for lower consumption to conserve scarce resources. Today we are told it is to protect the environment. But the goal remains the same, cut back on consumption.
One could even add the cause most frequently cited for the “Great Recession” of 2008-09, excessive consumption driven by cheap credit, as another rationale for demanding lower consumption.
Why the outcry about our consumption patterns? What is wrong with the average American, or anyone else for that matter, wanting to own his home, have more leisure, travel more, enjoy more entertainment, eat better, and so on? I have a hunch the anti-consumption crowd is basically uncomfortable with makind’s intrusion on what they see as a pristine planet. I fear they will not be satisfied, even if we find a renewable energy that does not pollute, say like bio-fuels. I have a hunch they will not be satisfied until our footprint is so small it will not support our very existence. But then I probably worry too much.
I am gazing out to the Mediterranean. This last week we have seen unusually rough seas with massive waves crashing on the rocks 50 meters from my front door. Salt spray covers the house, the plants, the car, everything. I then turn to gaze at the mountains behind with their barren north faces showing the sheer walls left by huge blocks of rock breaking off and falling to the sea. In fact, my house rests on what was once part of the mountain behind.
In this place, which is now referred to in tourist literature as, “Between the Mountains and the Sea,” one gains a profound understanding of how the earth changes over the centuries, nay, over the millions of years. I realize that this marvelous place, surrounded by the largest nature park in Mallorca, will one day be much different. I know that my house will one day be gone leaving little more than the remnants left by the 4000 year old burrial chamber recently discovered 500 meters away. And one day all be under the rest of the mountain when it crumbles away. No, the sea may try to claim it, but the mountains will win.
All this makes me reflect once more on the hubris of those who would try to keep the world as it is. Conservationists now morphed into environmentalists lack the proper perspective. The mountains will fall and erupt again, the seas will rise and then fall, the ice will melt and then grow again, species will become extinct and new ones will evolve, and man will evolve. No, we cannot keep what we see and sense as it is. We can guide the changes somewhat, but mere mortals have little power when matched against mountains and sea.
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