To the right you have the laughable stance adopted by the conservative movement that humans are having no effect on climate and the atmosphere. At the other extreme are non-scientist policy makers and pundits holding “The End Is Near” signs on every street corner claiming that Iowa and Chad will be beachfront property by the end of next year.
Personally, I’m not qualified to discern which side is closer to representing the truth.
What I do know is that the debate should remain in scientific circles because I have yet to meet anyone qualified to entirely explain the variances in global temperatures. While world leaders are dithering in Copenhagen and arguing over hacked e-mails about tree rings versus thermometers, the public needs to close its ears to the noise produced on both sides of the global warming debate and focus on the tangible aspects of industrial pollution.
You don’t need to be an expert on carbon emissions or reference “parts per billion” to understand that we are seriously screwing up the planet. Public health has been compromised by the rise of industry. While there are several factors that contribute to the decline in public health, much of the discussion centers on energy production and sources because it’s the baseline driver of industry. So let’s look at it.
First of all, there is no such thing as clean coal. True, you can clean coal emissions, but the process of scrubbing coal to burn cleaner is just as much of an environmental disaster. There is no such thing as clean nuclear energy either, for that matter. True, the emissions are carbon neutral, but at some point every nuclear facility must dispose of the spent fuel used in production. The spent fuel must be stored somewhere and wherever that place is, it’s no place you want to be near.
Large wind farms in lakes and oceans are unrealistically expensive and remarkably inefficient. The Danes will tell you differently and espouse the virtues of wind power—just look at the marvel that is Copenhagen—but the fact remains that they are the largest manufacturers of wind turbines and have a vested economic interest in, shall we say, massaging the numbers. However, wind, solar and geothermal energy present viable options on a micro level and should be encouraged in every corner and backyard of the world. Individuals and small businesses need affordable access to clean energy solutions, not just municipalities.
Economically, there is no such thing as cheap oil anymore. Whether or not the Saudis or Venezuelans care to admit it, we have hit peak oil in the largest, most accessible oil fields around the world. Period. Are there places on Earth with large reserves of oil and natural gas? Yup. Is it easy to get to? Nope. Expensive to retrieve? Yup. Environmentally secure to extract? Nope.
As far as Cap and Trade is concerned—please. Giving large corporations and polluters the ability to buy their way out of cleaning their emissions is a lousy practice. Lisa Jackson from the EPA is on the right track by simply drawing a line in the sand and taking it out of the hands of Congress. The message from the Obama administration is clear: Clean it up. If Cap and Trade is allowed to continue one can only imagine Goldman Sachs creating a derivatives market that bundles pollution credits in with mortgages on homes with inefficient boilers and selling them to school boards in Greenland. No more government-backed securities bought by large corporations and sold on opaque markets, especially if they contain something as ethereal as carbon credits.
This is it folks. We have reached the tipping point. The only option heretofore is conservation.