By Bob Peckman
Peckman has a PhD in Physics and is retired from ITT. He lives in Roanoke.
Again, on Dec. 19, the Roanoke Times printed a matched pair of opinion pieces. One presents data and facts that can be verified (“Make it hot for legislators, too”). I would like to address the other by Robert Benne (“Against the climate change fanatics”). He starts by labeling those who are calling for action to mitigate global warming as hysterical fanatics and alarmists. Then he bounces to his concerns of how dramatically our comfort would be altered by migrating to cheaper and clean energy sources without explaining how.
The fight to mitigate climate change is driven by science, not by fanatical religion. To call Greta Thunberg an adolescent icon of an apocalyptic irruption is quite absurd. She can’t be dismissed with a silly label. From there he warns about consolidation of government control over the economy and “adherents” promoting socialism instead of protecting the environment, sending us into the lalaland of conspiracy theories.
Greenland has been mostly ice since prehistoric times with a few sporadic settlements on the coasts. The Little Ice Age is a name given by newspaper reporters (not scientists) for one of several long cold snaps when rivers froze over. The real ice age is when mastodons were frozen into the permafrost where they were preserved until now.
Natural gas (methane) produces no carbon monoxide and less CO2 than oil and coal, but it leaks during the mining, the transportation, and the handling processes. Methane is more than ten times as potent at global warming as CO2. The combination of reduced CO2 and leaked methane make natural gas about equivalent to oil and coal.
Nuclear is currently more expensive than all the other sources. And that is before accounting for the cost of cleanup. We don’t know yet what the cost of cleanup will be as we have never disposed of any nuclear waste because we don’t know how to do it.
When the cost of natural gas is calculated, collateral damage is also ignored. Fracking has left some wells flammable. The MVP will be washing mud into our water supply until it is replanted with trees. Several similar new pipelines in similar terrains have had big enough explosions to wipe out all of Newport. And we are pumping used fracking fluids, with undisclosed chemicals, underground, gambling that no water supplies will ever be affected. Even with the subsidies which we are inexplicably giving to the oil industry and ignoring all hidden costs, wind and solar have become the two cheapest sources of energy. If you want to write a conspiracy theory, you might explain why we are not promoting the cheapest, the cleanest, and the safest sources of energy. They are the sources that the world is migrating to, so there are opportunities to sell equipment if we are willing to develop it, and where we also eventually will go.
Benne asks why should we do it if China and India are not? When America was great, we were world leaders, not reluctant followers.
It is true that 506 Europeans, 10 of whom claim to be climate scientists, signed the “European Climate Declaration” (ECD). Here is why real scientists disagree:
• ECD notes that some vegetation grows faster with more CO2, ignoring scientific studies of food plants that carry less nutrition. It also ignores that acidification of the seas diminishes shell-fish production and that warmer water, which carries less oxygen, diminishes fin-fish production while boosting jellyfish populations.
• Contrary to ECD, the rate of warming is actually greater than originally predicted, probably due to ice-melt reflecting less than white ice, methane released from melting permafrost, methane released from oil wells and the increase of fires. Nevertheless, the predictions have been quite accurate.
• The cataclysmic events that science predicted have started. Much of Australia is burning, India has had killer floods and killer droughts, sometimes simultaneously, and our military has plans for handling flooded facilities and climate refugees.
Calling me a fool is opinion. Quoting fiction as science is bad journalism. For scientific facts, Benne should look to scientific publications, like Science News and Discover, and the vetted newspapers, not the tabloids and campaign materials. There is no way to balance truth with material such as Benne’s piece, nor is there a need.