April 30, 2009

DN Column - Climate Change

And the first shall be last. Thanks to Dr. Donald Wilhite of the School of Natural Resources for letting me rip off his presentation. I had heard most of it before, but he made of thoughtful, reasoned, well structured argument. This is my last regular column for the semester. I will be the Opinion Editor over the summer, but we only print once a week on Mondays. We have four columnists for summer, so we will all be writing biweekly.

Climate change must be regarded as real problem



john said...

Considering the level of fossil fuel being used in the 17oo's, I find it very hard to believe that global co2 levels were rising. If it is true, then you are suggesting that to fix the global warming problem, we need to lower human fossil fuel use to pre-1700 levels. You are an architect-try running a bulldozer with solar power. Try making concrete and steel with wind power.
Not gonna happen.

Either the planet warms up a bit, or it doesn't. We have been told the "end is near" for thousands of years. It is always supposed to be caused by the excesses and wickedness of humanity. I have personally had to listen to the following "end of the world" scenarios:
1968-Pollution will poison the world.
1974-The Energy Crisis: we will use up all oil in thirty years (note that that didn't happen)
1976-Pollution will cause the next ice age (I did a paper on that one).
1980-Nuclear winter will cause the next ice age.
2000-Global warming will cause irreversible climate damage.

Somebody is always telling us that we need to "change our wicked ways" or the world will end.

Monica said...

Actually, quite a lot of fossil fuels were being burned in the 1700's, especially the late 1780's in Europe. Coal was everywhere, can coal is by far the dirtiest fossil fuel there is. Cities were choking to death on pollution. People used umbrellas every day to keep the soot off and that didn't even work. We were in a relatively cool period at that time and it took until about 1900 to break the 300 ppm ceiling. During that time a lot of those coal sources were cleaned up and more were replaced with cleaner burning natural gas or electricity (we don't have coal stoves in every single home anymore, except in China, where people are still dying from pollution). In order to mitigate climate change, we don't need to get back to 1780, only 1905. Or, because 1905 sounds scary, they like to say 80% below 1990 levels.

Actually, it would be quite easy to run large construction equipment from electrical power. Just like we can run cars (which have comparable horsepower) on electricity. For steel, we do need furnaces, which is why all metals have a fairly high embodied energy. However, new glu-lam lumber can now replace many steel truss applications and work quite well in large buildings. Concrete itself emits CO2 as it cures, but it can easily be transported, mixed, and set with electricity generated from wind. Plus, let's throw industrial geothermal electricity in there just for kicks. The potential for that is equal to every currently producing coal plant in North America and creates no pollution. I recommend research before you go poo-poo-ing renewable energy, John.

Ya know, my Mom once told me that I should believe in God because so many people can't be wrong. Maybe that should apply to doomsayers as well. So many people telling us we're gonna screw ourselves if we keep doing what we're doing, can't be wrong, right? :-)

john said...

I will have to look at industrial geothermal energy again. I read about some very small applications in the 70's and 80's, but I haven't heard much since then.
I like being in the minority opinion--it gives me more people to argue with. I also like arguing with you because you do it effectively yet gently.