Climate change debate ignores reality
One of the problems in political discourse, in general, is that we too often debate headlines and narratives and not the basic facts. Nowhere is that truer than in so many of the discussions regarding climate change.
The headline debate is said to be between those who say the climate is warming and those who deny it. Actually, that is not the debate at all – or should not be. It is a narrative created for purely political advantage.
Virtually every scientist agrees that the earth has warmed up in recent years. That is not where the serious debate takes place.
The two issues that are more relevant are … how much does mankind add to the carbon emissions that are giving the earth a bit of a glasshouse effect and what can we do about it?
So, the first thing to get straight is where are all those harmful gases coming from? Many folks believe that mankind is a MAJOR contributor. Au Contraire.
The earth recycles about 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. Most of that comes from the land and the sea – and that is ten times as much as humans produce. Let that sink in. The natural environment on land and sea contributes 90 percent of all CO2 going into the atmosphere – almost equally divided between land and sea.
That may be both startling and enlightening since I cannot tell you how many times I have heard folks – even smart folks – say that we humans contribute most of the CO2.
The earth and the sea also absorb CO2 as part of the natural cycle – and that is where the controversy starts. If, by way of example, we assume that the land and sea each generate 45 billion tons of CO2 per year – and we humans add 10 billion tons – what gets absorbed?
Basically, the land and sea have a good recycling system. They essentially recycle what they expel. The problem rests with the 10 percent attributable to human activity. That is where the buildup takes place. While the land and the sea can absorb a portion of the man-made gases, they cannot absorb and recycle them all.
Most folks agree that reducing man-made carbon emissions is a good idea. Every little bit helps. But can we cut back sufficiently to reverse the greenhouse effect without plunging mankind back into the Stone Age? We may have to adjust to the reality of a warming planet for now. Earth will eventually cycle into a cooling period – but that may take a few thousand years.
The battle over climate change is based on two fronts. Internationally, a whole lot of countries would like America to take our foot off the accelerator of a dynamic economy for the benefit of our foreign competitors and adversaries. On the domestic side, Democrats find political advantage in taking the climate issue and inflating it to an end-of-the-world narrative through scaremongering for political benefit.
Since we are not going to stop global warming in its tracks (that has been proven over and over) – and there is no way we can reduce man-caused CO2 emissions sufficiently to solve the problem – we should probably focus our public policy efforts on (1) a REASONABLE plan to reduce CO2 emissions and (2) focus on mitigating the future impacts of global warming. And by “reasonable,” I mean something that would not turn America into a third-world country – as we help China and other countries become the new world leaders.
In terms of mitigation of rising temperatures, major coastal cities should be building infrastructure to deal with higher ocean levels. Zoning should be used to limit residential and commercial construction in coastal regions – especially those in the hurricane zone. Zoning should be used to stop construction in river floodplains.
To mitigate the impact of western brush fires, we need to control housing developments in fire-prone regions – and undertake land management policies that will inhibit fire in residential areas.
In tornado-pone regions, building codes should be used to improve structural strength – and the routine construction of safe bunkers within the home.
A lot needs to be done – and can be done – if we stop debating climate change as some political Kabuki Theater that is long on political theatrics and short on common sense fact-based policies.
So, there ‘tis.