Common Ground On Climate

Preface: I studied global warming in the 1980s at a top university. My environmental credentials are solid by any measure. I have no dog in the climate debate, other than to do what is best for the people and the planet.

The American people are deeply divided on climate change.

An April Rasmussen poll found:

When it comes to global warming, 47% of voters say climate change is primarily caused by long-term planetary trends. Thirty-six percent (36%) disagree and believe human activity is more to blame. Ten percent (10%) are undecided. While more voters have blamed planetary trends since January 2009, this is the widest gap between the two since July of last year.

There is a huge and perhaps unbridgeable gap between global warming activists and skeptics (using the terms the various groups themselves use). Each side continues to make arguments about how the other is uninformed, corrupt or plain stupid (just look at the comments to this article). Counter-productive measures are being contemplated, but we are too busy arguing to notice … or to take effective action to demand something smarter.

Unless we agree on common ground and demand that our politicians take constructive actions, no positive policy changes will be made and – instead – ineffective or even harmful policies will be enacted.

A Window of Opportunity

A few weeks ago, one of the largest coronal mass ejections ever observed reinforced dire predictions by NASA and other government agencies that heightened solar activity in the next couple of years could knock out power grids throughout many parts of the world and lead to numerous nuclear meltdowns.

Many scientists were also worried that increased solar output could warm the Earth. As I wrote 5 years ago, after explaining in detail the affect of carbon dioxide on climate:

Scientists have also found that cosmic rays linked to global warming are increasing. The sun is simply getting hotter. Indeed, solar output has been increasing steadily ever since scientists have been able to measure it.

Not impressed yet? How about this: there is evidence of global warming on Pluto, on Mars, on Neptune’s moon, and on Jupiter.

And guess what? The next “solar maximum” — the 12-year peak of solar activity — might be a really big one (see also this article).

However, just this week, scientists from the US Solar Observatory and the US Air Force Research Laboratory have discovered – to their great surprise – that the sun’s activity is declining, and that we might experience the lowest solar output we’ve seen since 1645-1715. The Register describes it in dramatic tones:

What may be the science story of the century is breaking this evening.

Scientists who are convinced that global warming is a serious threat to our planet say that such a reduced solar output would simply buy us more time … delaying the warming trend, but not stopping or reversing it.

On the other hand, scientists who are skeptical about global warming say that the threat is a new mini ice age. (Remember that scientists have been convinced in the past that we would have a new ice age, and even considered pouring soot over the arctic in the 1970s to help melt the ice – in order to prevent another ice age. Obama’s top science advisor was one of those warning of a new ice age in the 1970s. And see this.)

Common Ground Number 1: Use the Reprieve to Harden Nuclear Reactors or Decommission Them

Whatever you believe about climate change, if you are a person of good will you presumably can agree that a period of reduced solar output gives us some extra time to harden our nuclear reactors from the risk of a power outage. If you are not familiar with the extreme danger, please read this.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the near-miss in Alabama, and the still-fluid situation in Nebraska, we should count the lower solar output is a blessing in terms of giving us the time to preventing global nuclear problems during the next mega-solar event.

Common Ground Number 2: Authoritarian Rule Is Never Justified

Noam Chomsky and James Lovelock (environmentalist and creator of the “Gaia hypothesis”) have both said that they would be okay with an authoritarian approach to tackling global warming.

But whatever one might think about climate change, all people of good will can agree that fascism is never justified.

Common Ground Number 3: Let’s Not Do Something Rash Which Makes Things WORSE

Currently, “government scientists are studying the feasibility of sending nearly microscopic particles of specially made glass into the Earth’s upper atmosphere to try to dampen the effects of ‘global warming.’ ” Others are currently suggesting cutting down trees and burying them. Other ways to geoengineer the planet are being proposed.

The harm caused by many of these methods have not been thought through … and they could cause serious damage to our health and our ecosystems.

So – whatever you think about climate – you can obviously agree that we should approach climate change from the age-old axiom of “first, do no harm”, making sure that our “solutions” do not cause more damage than the problems.

Common Ground Number 4: Reduce the Carbon Footprint of War

As Harvey Wasserman notes, continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will more than wipe out any reduction in carbon from the government’s proposed climate measures. Writing about the escalation in the Afghanistan war, Wasserman says:

The war would also come with a carbon burst. How will the massive emissions created by 100,000-plus soldiers in wartime be counted in the 17% reduction rubric? Will the HumVees be converted to hybrids? What is the carbon impact of Predator bombs that destroy Afghan families and villages?

[See this for proof that the military is the biggest producer of carbon.] The continuance of the Afghanistan, Iraq, Libyan and others wars completely and thoroughly undermines the government’s claims that there is a global warming emergency and that reducing carbon output through cap and trade is needed to save the planet.

I can’t take anything the government says about carbon footprints seriously until the government ends the unnecessary wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. For evidence that the Iraq war is unnecessary, see this. Read this for evidence that the U.S. could have taken Bin Laden out years ago and avoided a decades long war in Afghanistan. And for proof that the entire war on Muslim extremists is unnecessary for our national security, see this.

War is also very harmful to the economy. See this, this and this.

So whatever you think of climate change, all people can agree that ending the wars is important.

Common Ground Number 5: Reduce Soot

Without taking a position on carbon dioxide (which I’ve been reading about for 30 years), I have extensively discussed that soot has been discovered to be a leading cause of snow and ice melting in the Arctic and the Himalayas, and soot has a much faster influence on temperature than CO2. It is also relatively easy to reduce soot.

In addition, breathing soot is horrible for people’s health, so reducing it is a win-win.

So all people of good will – whatever your view on climate – should agree that reduction of soot is a worthy goal.

Common Ground Number 6: Abandon Cap and Trade

The proposed solution to global warming being pushed by the powers that be – cap and trade – is a scam. Specifically:

  • The economists who invented cap-and-trade say that it won’t work for global warming
  • Many environmentalists say that carbon trading won’t effectively reduce carbon emissions
  • Our bailout buddies over at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and the other Wall Street behemoths are buying heavily into carbon trading (see this, this, this, this, this and this). As University of Maryland professor economics professor and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission Peter Morici writes:

    Obama must ensure that the banks use the trillions of dollars in federal bailout assistance to renegotiate mortgages and make new loans to worthy homebuyers and businesses. Obama must make certain that banks do not continue to squander federal largess by padding executive bonuses, acquiring other banks and pursuing new high-return, high-risk lines of businesses in merger activity, carbon trading and complex derivatives. Industry leaders like Citigroup have announced plans to move in those directions. Many of these bankers enjoyed influence in and contributed generously to the Obama campaign. Now it remains to be seen if a President Obama can stand up to these same bankers and persuade or compel them to act responsibly.

    In other words, the same companies that made billions off of derivatives and other scams and are now getting bailed out on your dime are going to make billions from carbon trading.

So if cap and trade is not the answer, what is?

Decentralization of power generation and storage. That would empower people and communities, produce less carbon, prevent nuclear disasters like Fukushima, reduce the dangers of peak oil, (and thus prevent future oil spills like we had in the Gulf), and have many other positive effects.

Conclusion: Let’s Use This Window of Opportunity

The dramatic shift this week in scientist’s forecasts for the sun’s output gives us a window of opportunity to make sane policy choices.

Let’s use it.

Both global warming activists and skeptics can agree on the 6 points of common ground discussed above. Whatever we may disagree on, we should all demand from our politicians that they adopt policies in line with these 6 points which are win-win for everyone … and the environment.

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