Climate Change: what your parents never told you

‘In the absence of science, religion flourishes . . .’

-Unknown

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One of today’s most hotly debated public policy matters is the subject of Climate Change, formerly known as “global warming.”

Before I go any further with a blog post that will surely divide my followers and Facebook “friends,” let’s get right to the meat of the matter.

When former vice president Al Gore declared that “the planet has a fever,” he was right. Global Climate Change (GCC) simply cannot be denied.

I am not a scientist, geologist or meteorologist. I am just another pundit with yet another point of view.

But while my friends on the left are far more likely to celebrate my above statements about the reality of GCC, I have some serious misgivings about many of their proposals to “fix the problem.” Recently hundreds of high-school students skipped classes to rally against GCC.

They should have hit the books instead.

When debating GCC, we should be able to acknowledge some fundamental facts:

  • Planet Earth is approximately 4.543 billion years old;
  • The Ice Age began 2.4 million years ago, lasting until approximately 11,500 years ago;
  • Humans began roaming the planet approximately 200,000 years ago.

So what do these facts tell us?

Well, for starters, the earth’s climate has been changing for a long, long time and humans had little to no impact on the earth’s atmosphere until about 50 years ago.

But before we begin any conversation about GCC, we should check our emotions at the door. This is a complex issue, and rhetoric – from either deniers or fanatics – won’t do a damn thing except possibly increasing your blood pressure.

Climate Change Impacts: A brief history

If you want to talk about other impacts that affect GCC, let’s take a relatively short journey back in time.

According to an article by Karen Harpp, an assistant professor of geology at Colgate University, published in the Scientific American newsletter:

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin made what may have been the first connection between volcanoes and global climate while stationed in Paris as the first diplomatic representative of the United States of America. He observed that during the summer of 1783, the climate was abnormally cold, both in Europe and back in the U.S. The ground froze early, the first snow stayed on the ground without melting, the winter was more severe than usual, and there seemed to be “a constant fog over all Europe, and [a] great part of North America.”

What Franklin observed, Harpp writes was “indeed the result of volcanic activity.”

“Natural forces cause Earth’s temperature to fluctuate on long timescales due to slow changes in the planet’s orbit and tilt,” according to a Q & A published by Climate Communication, which is a non-profit science and outreach project. “Such forces were responsible for the ice ages. Other natural forces sometimes cause temperatures to change on short timescales.”

On the other side of the debate there is plenty of scientific evidence regarding human impact on GCC, especially so in the last 50 years. The human impact has, in fact, outpaced natural impacts.

So what do we do?

Industrialized nations (United States, Japan, China, Russia, Great Britain, India and France) have more responsibility because of their bigger global impact. The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed by all of these counties and many more nations that have a far lower impact or produce fewer greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide.

And then there is the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on scientific consensus.

I don’t dispute the science that provides more than ample evidence of human impact on climate change, but I am an ardent opponent of so-called carbon taxes. Just a few days ago, the state of Maine rejected the notion of placing a dedicated tax on gasoline and home heating oil. Phew! We dodged another bullet.

So-called carbon taxes are the rallying cry of the activists, but those additional taxes would place a further burden on the citizens who can least afford it.

Maine Governor Janet Mills is pushing for a $50 million bonding package that would study the impact of rising sea levels on coastal Maine communities. “We’re all in this together,” she said.

Rather than creating yet more taxes, perhaps we should focus more attention on creating incentives to reduce greenhouse gases.

I have worked as a public relations consultant on several energy projects, including wind power and an LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminal in eastern Maine. I was always amazed when environmentalists opposed clean, renewable sources of energy, citing bird strikes and the need for flickering red lights atop wind turbines. I live in a community that once burned trash to generate electricity, but don’t get me started on that boondoggle.

We humans have a right to occupy this planet and we all share an inherent responsibility to be good stewards of our natural resources. I recently took a quick gander around my house, comparing it to my parents’ home. When I was growing up there were no microwave ovens. We didn’t have a dishwasher, flat-screen televisions or computers.

I am not suggesting that we should get rid of these things, but maybe we could be more mindful about our energy consumption, and explore expanding clean energy sources such as hydro projects – and yes – nuclear power. (Last week, Forbes magazine published an article that examined the safety of nuclear power plants.)

In a March 11 Portland Press Herald editorial, the editorial board wrote that “the global climate fight will take many forms.”

I could not agree more.

What do you think?

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