Saturday, August 25, 2007

Is Exxon ahead of NASA on climate change?

I can understand how one would tire of Republican bickering over climate change ("magic space rays" -- ha!). But the greenhouse effect is pretty basic chemistry (that is just how some molecules behave), and humans have been adding tons (literally millions of tons per year) of the greenhouse gas CO2 to the atmosphere since fossil fuel burning really got going during the Industrial Revolution.

In summary:
Humans Increase CO2 + Increased CO2 Warms Planet = Humans Warm Planet

I do not understand how this was ever "controversial" in the minds of anyone not receiving his paycheck from Exxon Mobil. I suppose a lot of folks trusted the oil-dole guys when they showed up all over the teevee and in newspapers, which is not surprising, considering how very many oil-dole guys there are, all the way up to George Bush and Dick Cheney themselves.

Trying to confuse people and outright censoring science have stopped working so much (thanks, in large part, to Al Gore's insistence that we listen to scientists and not oil money). Hell, even Exxon has caught on (to the detriment of the poor Republican think tanks), though I suspect they've actually just realized that the end of oil is not a good long-term business plan.

So the new Republican strategy? The Republican-appointed head of NASA (they've put the oil-dole goons in charging of mutherfuckin' NASA) has said, yeah, so maybe the planet's warming after all in spite of what we told you for the last ten years, but okay, who cares? Poor people? Polar bears? So what! Now we can swim any day in November.

That's the new position. Go team Republican!

And yeah, this post, this post by someone very angry that people were being lied to about something so important, it probably just turns more people off. Ahh, human nature. I think it really does come down to psychology. People see An Inconvenient Truth and feel like they're being scolded over the very principles of science and how average consumers are able to use them. That's not fair, and I can see how it comes across that way -- I get defensive, too. But angry hippies like me who are worried about this problem are really more interested in finding solutions than in scolding people for driving their kids to school.

There are lots of potential solutions for our fuel problems in development (in addition to re-thinking where one lives and how one gets around, which everyone should do, periodically). My favorite of these solutions is the solar car, and solar energy in general. The notion of harnessing free energy raining down from the heavens appeals mightily to my inner cheapskate. Unfortunately, purchasing the technology to get that free energy is not cheap yet, nor is it convenient. And it seems like the powers that be are not particularly interested in developing something you can only sell once. Hmmm. For some reason, the less sustainable a new solution is, the more politicians and the media hype it. The media alternative energy darlings are pretty much the opposite of mine. Politicians and the media love:

"Clean" (cough, gag) Coal
  • Requires energy to produce
  • Emits CO2

  • Requires energy to produce
  • Emits CO2

  • Requires energy to produce
  • Emits CO2

  • Requires energy to produce
  • I strongly suspect byproducts

  • Dangerous byproducts

  • Kills birds

  • Kills fish, I bet

  • Magical wonderful utopia with rainbows and unicorns

Though in my ideal world, cars, buildings, laptops, cell phones, and backpacks would be covered in solar panels, failing that, the drawbacks of wind and wave energy seem worth it to me (sorry to a few hundred birds and fish a year). I don't really understand why our national energy policy is going in different directions, but that's probably because I haven't looked into that very deeply yet. In particular, I don't know how much energy can realistically be generated by each technique. When I do some more reading, I might find drawbacks and benefits I haven't considered yet. I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Thomas J. Brown said...

The scientists are talking; let's listen.

What makes the basic tenets of global warming controversial is that there is a disagreement over whether or not an increase in carbon dioxide directly equals an increase in global temperature. In The Great Global Warming Swindle, some very credible climate scientists argue that not only is human carbon dioxide production not the problem, but that carbon dioxide itself has little, if anything, to do with global climate change.

I only point these things out because, as I said in my blog post, The Global Warming Debate Cannot be Ignored, "I just don't think anyone benefits from wide-spread panic and fear." Let's all be honest about how our planet is changing and why that change is happening. And it doesn't matter if humans are affecting the climate or not, we still need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. We still need to stop pumping toxins into the environment. We still need to reduce our carbon emissions.

Life will exist on this planet for a very long time, and it's our responsibility to protect the wellbeing of all life, both in the present and the future.