I’ve studied climate change more than anyone I know. Whether it’s because I led a company with huge opportunities in solar power, or because I was wondering if green energy companies would be a good career move after I sold said company, or because I was worried that my children would inherit a degraded earth, or that my BS meter went off when the usual suspects started pushing emergency government action… I’d say it was a combination of all four. When I look at my stock portfolio I realize that I have something to gain by jumping on the “we must invest now!” bandwagon. But I’ve learned that the truth eventually emerges, and the further you are found from it when it does, the more severe the damage. And when it comes to climate change, I feel a strong need now to share what I’ve learned.
First- the earth is warming. It has been for many thousands of years, since glaciers covered the northern half of the US. No one disputes this;
Second- mankind is affecting temperature. The urban heat zone effect and deforestation account for temperature rise. Indisputable;
Third, laws of physics govern the greenhouse effect, and a back of the napkin equation can be used to show this.
BUT, on the other hand…
Many physicists were using the Stefan-Boltzman constant which applies to black body radiation, and the earth is hardly a black body. It’s albedo (measure of how much radiation is absorbs vs. reflects, driven by cloud-cover) needs to be plugged in.
And the earth’s albedo is constantly changing. NASA has a satellite to monitor this. And this accounts for most of the change (at least 60%) in temperature the past 100 years.
The primary driver of albedo is the sun. For decades, climate scientists ruled out the sun as the cause of heating because they couldn’t detect the change in output. But they’ve now discovered the interplay between solar activity, cosmic rays, and cloud nucleation. This was demonstrated at CERN (world’s largest particle accelerator and inventors of the internet) in an experiment that’s not yet half-through that will quantify this relationship.
And the ongoing experiments, ongoing data collection, and incomplete analysis mean that anyone who thought they knew the answer even a year ago was wrong. The vast majority (97%?) of these old models failed to predict temperature decrease the past 15 years, failed to predict minimal rate of sea level increase (or decrease), failed to predict Antarctic ice growth.
And the failure of these models is indisputable. The emergence of cloud cover as a primary driver of temperature is indisputable. The need to adjust models to account for solar activity is indisputable. And the likelihood of only minor changes over the next 100 years (on the order of 2-6 inches of sea level rise and not 20 feet) and even a possibility of temperature declines is indisputable.
Also indisputable: this is not the warmest period in history, or in the past 2000 years, or even in the past 100 years. While the overall trend has been up, there have been peaks in the past (Medieval warming period, and Dust Bowl years), and it has been the cover-up attempts that have convinced me that there are a group of scientists (amazing how many of them come from East Anglia University in the UK and connected to Scripts Institute/UVa in the US) who have hidden, misinterpreted, and even falsified data to make climate change look more serious than it is. And this is human nature- witness the manufactured crises of slow cell phone connections, split ends, and ring around the collar that attract millions or billions of dollars in extra revenue.
So now that PhD faculty at MIT, Cambridge, Harvard, UAB (home of NASA’s satellite temperature program), Princeton, Stanford, Sorbonne, Hebrew University, etc. have stated that climate change has been… overstated… and that changes the next 100 years can be dealt with via relatively minor means (dealing with 4 inches of sea rise vs. the need to deal with millions of people regularly flooded by feet of water with the kind of technology employed in Holland and New Orleans is minor, especially when you factor in the all the beneficial effects of warmer climate, increased agricultural productivity, and modern electricity), we face another indisputable truth: no one likes pollution.
It’s true that pollution has negative effects. Beijing skies can be terribly smoggy, and asthma is made worse. But there are nearly 2 MILLION people who die just from Indoor Air Pollution EACH YEAR from burning coal, wood, and dried cow dung for heat and cooking. The negative effects of pollution are nothing compared to the negative effects of not having electricity. And having visited undeveloped areas in China, I can tell you first hand that you have not seen pollution until you’ve seen areas without modern energy. I’ve never seen orange streams in the US, but I saw them there.
And the fact is that nearly 3 BILLION of our fellow humans live on less than $2 a day. Minimal clothing, minimal food, minimal communication, minimal healthcare, minimal hygiene, minimal employment, minimal life expectancy- and the primary driver is minimal energy, which is primarily what distinguishes these impoverished areas. Whether it’s China, or India, or sub-Saharan Africa, or elsewhere, the advent of modern electrical power has boosted living standards by multiples. But people have been trying to stop this modernization- in the name of climate change.
Forcing developing nations to use solar or wind power is like forcing a nascent taxi company in NYC to buy a Tesla roadster instead of a Chevy. 5-10X more expensive, with half the capacity. While American power companies are rich enough to afford to pay $.25/kwh for wind power (as well as $millions$ more in storage in lakes) vs. $.025/kwh or less for coal-generated power, third world power companies and societies are not.
So, for me, the immorality of climate change is this: that anyone would think it acceptable to conscript billions to ongoing poverty while failing to make the most of our productive capacity out of unwarranted fear to deal with a couple degrees of temperature change over the next 100 years when we have the technology and resources to continue the massive improvements we’ve seen the past 100 years (bearing in mind most everyone lived in poverty in the early 19th century)- and make lives better TODAY.
Perhaps all this doesn’t change your mind. In most social circles, the impact of saying “I have doubts about climate change” falls somewhere between “The Tea Party may have a point” and “gay people should not be allowed to get married”, with a certain rush to ostracization and shunning to follow. But I was happy to see that my congressman, a physicist, was one of the few Democrats to vote against cap and trade last time after I wrote him a series of letters. And my kids have seen what real poverty looks like, so as for me and my family, we’ll always stand for trading a minor amount of extra warmth for modern electricity and a global economy driven to spread wealth.
I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a few links- start with the first for the best explanation I’ve seen to date:
http://www.climateaudit.org (search Yamal, it’s amazing how the remnants of one tree drove climate science and how the Medieval Warming Period was removed from the historical record)
http://www.realclimate.org (for the other side of the argument- I highly recommend getting both sides of any argument before making a judgement, and this is ground zero for establishment climate science in the US)
And I’d love to have one of these:
but I’ll likely more end up with one of these: