Monday, September 20, 2021

Get real about Climate Change. Part 1: Climate change is an established fact and time is running out to do anything about it.

by Rod Williams, Sept. 5, 2021 - I have never been a climate change "denier."  I don't know any climate change "deniers;" I know some climate change "skeptics." I think the term "denier" is used in order to put climate change skeptics in the same category as Holocaust deniers.  I am not a climate change "denier," nor a "skeptic," however.  I accept the theory of climate change.

I was a skeptic early on but that was a long long time ago when I did not know much about the topic.  Since about 2007 or so I have accepted the dominant scientific consensus that the earth is warming. I also accept the theory that human activity is a contributing factor.  I have posted on the topic many times.  If one cares to read what I have written over the years, follow this link.  

If I were to meter my acceptance of the theory that the earth is warming and that human activity is a contributing factor, my acceptance meter since about 2007 would range somewhere between about 65% to 95%.  The only exception to this range of acceptance was that it dropped below 50% briefly during the Climategate scandal of 2009 in which hacked documents from Britain’s Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia showed that a who’s who of climate scientists destroyed evidence, used tricks to modify data that shows the earth is cooling, corrupted the peer review process, withheld data that did not support their findings and conspired to pressure and punish skeptical scientist. You may remember the term "hide the decline" from this period. 

Following that scandal, my acceptance meter rebounded when I concluded that Climategate was not the final word and that the preponderance of evidence still supported the global warming theory. So while I accept the theory of climate change with a great degree of certainty, I do not think skeptics are evil people with no basis for skepticism. I find it difficult however to be generous to those skeptics who do not think the earth is even warming.  I can be more generous to those who think it is warming but question the degree to which human activity is a contributing factor.

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report on the status of climate change. This is the most alarming report ever. It tells us time is running out to do anything about global warming.  This was a preliminary report on the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) and a draft version. The final AR6 report will be released in September 2022.  It calls climate change clearly human-caused and “an established fact.” This body makes more precise forecasts of a greater rate of warming for the future than it did last time it was issued in 2013. It warns we will reach the calamitous level of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels sometime in the decade of the 2030's.

The report says that the estimates of global emissions even if we meet the ambitions goals of the Paris Agreement would lead to global greenhouse gas emissions insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.  The only way we can avoid the calamity of warming above this level is if there is a decline in CO2 emissions well before the year 2030. (link)

The path we are on does not indicate that will happen.  Given the path we are on, I see no reason for optimism.  I see all of those companies and nations with pledges of being carbon-neutral by 2030 as engaging in either rosy scenario thinking or lying. It is much like Congress promising that a certain new program will only cost so much when it always costs much more.  Some of those CEO's or national leaders know that they will not be around when the date by which they promised to be carbon-neutral arrives. It is easy to promise improvements in the future and then kick the can down the road. I think that is what is going on. 

Even those who really believe their own propaganda can't account for public resistance to the policies necessary to achieve their goals. People profess concern for climate change, and I don't doubt that they are sincere, but when it comes time to radically increase the price of energy or make changes to their lifestyle, they balk.  Just look at the yellow vest protest in France last year. When the government imposed a modest increase in the fuel tax, part of that tax being a carbon tax on diesel and gas as part of a plan to decrease consumption, mass protest erupted.  The protest was not organized by a political party or ideological movement.  It was primarily fueled by social media and protestors came from across the political spectrum.  We have picked the low-hanging fruit of carbon reduction. Future efforts to impose restraints on consumer choice and increase consumer costs will be met with resistance.

Another reason to be pessimistic is that there are not good accounting standards to measure a company nor a nation's carbon footprint. I suspect that a lot of claims of greenhouse gas reduction are due to fuzzy math instead of real reductions.  

 In 2017 Microsoft Corp. said it was responsible for 22 million metric tons of carbon.  In 2020 it said it was responsible for only 11 million tons.  What changed?  Not much except the way Microsoft calculates its carbon emissions.   Should carbon calculations be a production calculation or a consumption calculation?  How are subcontractors' and suppliers' carbon emissions to be calculated? I suspect that many companies to show they are producing less carbon are simply changing the way they calculate the amount of carbon they are producing.  I also suspect that carbon off-sets are overstated and inflated. Until rigorous standards, equal to financial accounting standards,  are adopted with uniform means of measuring carbon production and carbon offsets then claims of such should be taken with a grain of salt.

Also, don't pop a Champaign cork when some company or politician issues a press report about how they have made drastic improvements that will reduce their carbon footprint. Cities or companies or nations often pat themselves on the back and brag about their carbon reduction when all they have really done is replace an obsolete factory or vehicle fleet with a newer model. When Nashville passed mandatory routine updates of the city building codes last year, Mayor Cooper issued a press release making it look like it was a big deal. It was not.  One should be skeptical of claims of improvement and of the tendency to engage in "greenwashing." It is often smoke and mirrors. 

Another reason to be pessimistic is that while the advanced economies of the world are making some significant reduction in critical greenhouse cases, our advances are being negated by developing countries, primarily China and to a lesser extent, India.  Other undeveloped countries, in order to improve their standard of living, are also likely to industrialize and increase their production of greenhouse gases. A recent WSJ article illustrates this. 

Steel production accounts for 7% of the world's production of Carbon Dioxide, more than any other industrial sector.  Seventy percent of the world's steel is produced by the more-than-a-century-old blast furnace process, in which coal is burned at high temperatures to reduce the oxygen in iron ore, turning it into steel.  American and European steel producers have cleaned up their act. Some steel mills now rely on recycling steel rather than making steel from scratch, which produces much less CO2.  The blast furnace process is being replaced by electric arc furnaces and we are beginning to see steal mills that use hydrogen rather than coal. Real strides are being made in making clean steel.  Meanwhile, China produces about 57% of the world’s steel, and of that, about 90% is made using blast furnaces. And, China’s furnaces are also relatively new, with an average age of 12 years. China will not be updating its steel mills for years to come and they can produce steel at much cheaper prices than can America and Europe.  

It is clear that efforts so far to address climate change have failed and that the path we are on is the path of destruction.  Efforts have been insufficient in many cases, phony in some cases, and even sometimes counterproductive. 

Please look for my next essay on this topic where I share my thoughts on how we are to move forward and get serious about addressing the issue. 

Get real about Climate Change. Part 2: So far what we are doing about climate change is ineffective, anemic, symbolic, or counterproductive.

Get real about Climate Change. Part 3: Why are efforts to combat climate change such a failure?

Get real about Climate Change. Part 4: Admit that the Paris Accords has failed, ditch it, and establish an international mechanism to foster greenhouse reductions.

Get real about Climate Change. Part 5: It's Time for America to Embrace Carbon Border Adjustments

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment