Three Climate Change Questions Answered
A claimed nearly unanimous scientific consensus on fear of climate change has caused a push to substantially reduce or even eliminate the use of fossil fuel in favor of solar and wind. But three crucial questions are: 1) is the scientific community really united?, 2) can solar and wind take over any time soon to provide the required vital energy for the maintenance of modern civilization in today's world of 7 billion people?, and 3) has CO2 caused any harm yet? The answer to all three questions is no.
A major theme of this essay is that many assertions can easily be checked out by a simple Google search.
One of the most persistent false impressions, which the mainstream media have ingrained in us, is that 97% of scientists agree that CO2 is indeed doing irreparable harm. However, this figure was obtained not by a respected, impartial polling organization, but by believers for their own purposes.
Exactly what do the 97% agree on? Had the question been "Do you believe that the Earth's climate is changing, and does mankind have an effect on the climate?," the response would not have been 97%, but 100%. But had the question been "Is burning fossil fuel such a threat that there should be a major effort to stop?," who knows? Probably less than 50%. That question was never asked on a large-scale survey, done by a respected polling organization and documented in a place easily available to the public.
To get an idea of how divided the scientific community is, a petition was circulated, led by Friedrich Seitz, the president of the National Academy of Sciences, disputing the ill effects of CO2. It garnered 32,000 signatures, over 9,000 by Ph.D. scientists. To justify the 97%, there would have to be another opposing petition signed by a million scientists.
Still not convinced? Consider this excerpt from Steven Koonin, director of the Institute for Urban Studies at NYU, in the Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2017:
The public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science. At a recent national laboratory meeting, I observed more than 100 active government and university researchers challenge one another as they strove to separate human impacts from the climate's natural variability. At issue were not nuances but fundamental aspects of our understanding, such as the apparent – and unexpected – slowing of global sea level rise over the past two decades.
Judging by Koonin's particular experience, the number would be around 50%. So much for the 97%!
Despite the lack of consensus, there is a push by various organizations like the Sierra Club and 350.org, and Al Gore, to end the use of fossil fuel. The Sierra Club website states, "We are ready for 100% clean energy," apparently wrongly believing that solar and wind can replace fossil fuel. But in 1998, about 86% of world energy was from fossil fuel, 9%, nuclear, and solar and wind round off to the nearest integer down to 0%. Google "graph % of world power from solar and wind."
In 2017, after 20 years and hundreds of billions spent to develop and promote solar and wind – around $150B in the USA alone (Google "GAO budget for climate change"; the numbers are 85%, 5%, and rounds off up to 1%). Clearly, solar and wind will be unable to supplant fossil fuel any time soon. But think of what an 85% decrease in energy would mean for your lifestyle: cars, air-conditioning, high-tech medicine, air travel, most electricity, many manufactured goods. All gone, except for society's grand pooh-bahs.
The simple truth is that the world will not voluntarily end the use of fossil fuel until another energy source, most likely nuclear, becomes available at about the same quantity and price. Rapidly developing countries such as China, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and Nigeria understand this ironclad relationship between prosperity and fossil fuel use, even if we in the richer parts of the world have forgotten it. They will not stop using fossil fuel because the Sierra club lectures them to switch to solar and wind so as to save the planet. In fact, before fossil fuel was widely used, civilization was a thin veneer on a human base of poverty and squalor, a veneer supplied by colonies, slavery, and the like. Is this what we want?
Regarding harm CO2 may have done, there is a simple check. (1) Whenever a believer says such and such is happening, check it out with a Google search. For instance, say the claim is that sea levels are rising rapidly, as many definitively asserted when the Paris climate agreement was being negotiated. Simply Google "graph of sea level rise." A variety of graphs will pop up, all showing a persistent rise of between 20 and 30 cm per century, with no increase around 1950 as CO2 levels started to increase.
Say the claim is that ice in Antarctica is rapidly melting. Google "NASA Antarctica ice." It will show that ice is rapidly melting in some regions – for instance, near the Antarctic Peninsula. This provides dramatic pictures for the evening news. However, over the entire huge continent, the most recent NASA measurements of total ice show that ice is not melting, but forming – about 80 billion tons per year.
With an internet search, anyone can check out such assertions of gloom and doom, anywhere, anytime; virtually none stands up to serious scrutiny (1). In fact, it is amazing that the mainstream media have never performed these simple checks. This author is convinced that such journalistic irresponsibility will ultimately harm the media's credibility for decades to come.
It is much more likely that CO2 has been beneficial. It is not a pollutant, but an important nutrient for plants; without atmospheric CO2, life on Earth would not be possible (2). In fact, recent NASA measurements show that over the past 40 or so years of satellite measurements, the earth has been "greening." To see this, Google "NASA measurements of Earth's greening."
So should we be on a breakneck race to replace fossil fuel with solar and wind? Considering that the scientific community is, in reality, divided; the harm to civilization would be catastrophic should solar and wind fail, as they have up to this point; and that up to now, there has been little if any harm to the environment from burning fossil fuel, this author's answer is no.
1. Wallace Manheimer, "Original sin, prophets, witches, communists, preschool sex abuse, and climate change," International Journal of Engineering and Applied Science, July 2017 (open access), vol. 4, p. 66.
2. See www.CO2coalition.org.