Category Archives: two views

More Global Warming

James Hansen, who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote an article in the NYT about global warming, called Game Over for the Climate on May 9th, 2012 which tips the scientific scale towards proving that global warming is real and what will be likely to happen if we ignore the data. He says with certainty, “global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.”
“If Canada proceeds [to exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves] it will be game over for the climate,” he continues.
“Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.”
Paraphrasing he insists that if we continue current use and “fully exploit” this new source concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene Era, more than 2.5 million years ago when the sea level was 50 feet higher than now.
If heat trapping gases reach that level we will see, long term:
·         Disintegration of the ice sheets
·         Rising sea levels
·         Destruction of coastal cities
·         Intolerable global temps
·         20 – 50% of planet’s species driven to extinction
Short term outlook:
·         Western US and semi-arid region from N. Dakota to Texas in semi-permanent drought
·         When it does rain, it will occur in extreme events with heavy flooding
·         Incalculable economic losses
·         More and more of Midwest will become a dust bowl
·         California central valley no longer able to irrigate
·         Food prices will rise to unprecedented levels
The Numbers
CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 ppm over the last 150 years.
Tar sands contain enough carbon, 240 gigatons, to add 120 ppm.
Tar shale found mainly in US contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon
We have to keep carbon concentrations below 500 ppm to keep earth livable
We have to turn away from the dirtiest fuels.
We have to find ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels.
James Hansen says, “The science of the situation is clear – it’s time for politics to follow.
The Republican in My Backyard does not agree with anything Mr. Hansen has to say. He says that the science proves that global warming is not real. How is it possible that science can be used to prove that global warming is real and also that global warming is not real? How is anyone supposed to know what to make of this?
My Friendly Neighborhood Republican has this to say about oil
The oil that is in the world, will eventually be developed – example Canada.  Canada instead of selling cheap oil to the US and fostering growth, jobs in the US, because of the Obama administration is selling that oil to China. The Obama administration has stopped drilling in the gulf putting hundreds of thousands out of work, driving up the cost of oil.  The oil in the gulf is now being drilled by other countries, rather than the US.  Those countries now are selling that oil to us.  How does that help the US? The Obama administration has spent TRILLIONS of dollars for things like Solar Panel Manufacturing.  This was supposed to be “Green Shovel-Ready Jobs.”  The few jobs that it created, are gone, the companies are bankrupt or out of business and each job – which lasted less than a year, cost the taxpayer upwards of 1 Million dollars each??  How has that helped the US?
Regardless of the actions of the US (or Obama), the world is going to consume more oil.    The population is growing and even more importantly, China, India, Indonesia and soon Africa and transitioning to developed countries, that will be become big consumers of oil.  Not just for auto / truck, but for all kinds of other things like plastics.  Demand is going to increase.  The oil will be developed and purchased by these countries regardless of the US decisions.  There are only two answers – either we become a net exporter of oil or we continue to be dependent upon oil.  Other countries like Brazil and France have taken the steps to make their countries independent of energy imports through renewable sources but mostly through nuclear.  Solar, wind and many of these other sources are not ready for primetime.  The only reason that they have had any success is because of government subsidies to consumer, business and power plants that are required to buy this expensive energy.  None of these things are efficient enough for true commercialization. 
The answer is easy and clear:·        
  • Develop those resources in the US in way that is safe for the environment – clean burning coal, nuclear power, natural gas, oil·        
  • Become a net exporter and bring wealth and prosperity to the US·        
  • Stop with the direct subsidies to encourage use of these renewable sources that are not economical, rather provide tax subsidies to encourage exploration, research and innovation.  Tax subsidies cost little to a tax payer and tend to actually be a net increase in tax revenue because the company’s hire more people, who pay taxes, who buy things, who pay more taxes.·        
  • Build up whatever infrastructure that is required to make this work – refiners, nuclear plants, etc.·       
Drill, drill, drill…. The answer isn’t that difficult.  The US is one of the richest countries in the world with natural resources. Tell me what Obama is doing to improve the energy situation in the US???
Me:  Who is right? It is enough to drive a conscientious citizen crazy. It is obvious that we are not ready to give up fossil fuels. It is also obvious that some Americans are not convinced that global warming is real. If global warming is not real and if we are not putting our water resources in jeopardy then we can continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate and there will not be any dire consequences. On the other hand I don’t believe that scientists are just making up global warming as a scare tactic to foil the oil and gas industries. What would be the point? Who would want to stop using fossil fuels if there are no negative effects on the environment? Should we suck every last drop of oil out of the planet? Are fuels we retrieve from tar sands and oil shales dirtier than other oils (produce more carbon dioxide) as experts say they are? 

It does seem like a good idea to keep winding down our use of fossil fuels and to also keep our options open, to keep developing oil and gas resources for the time being. Mr. Hansen, I think, would not agree.

Bonnie Burnatowski Really interesting points of view there. I find it hard to believe that science cannot come to a valid conclusion as to whether or not we as a planet are creating global warming. I respect anyone’s decision to ignore scientific facts, but hey let’s be real. Of course the things that we do to the planet are going to impact the environment and the atmosphere. That’s just the simple law of cause and effect.

Bonnie Burnatowski I do agree though that we haven’t really found any monetarily viable sources of energy, even though we’ve spend big time dollars in development. Clean energy sources seem to be our best options at this point in time.