Summer has no doubt spawned renewed media rhetoric about global warming. This is in spite of the fact that 2007 has seen the third coldest February on record and the coldest April in the last decade.
On April 2, the Supreme Court declared greenhouse gases a harmful pollutant to be controlled by the EPA. Politicians – not scientists – are already calling for a governmental regulation of the U.S. economy restricting emissions. Specifically, Al Gore is calling for a tax on CO2 emissions. This is very odd since CO2 is a product of human respiration and an essential plant food. The implications of a tax on the products of human respiration are obvious and were exposed as this editorial was being written. A paper written by the Optimum Population Trust indicates that if couples had two vs. three children, they could cut their family’s CO2 output by “the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York.” Clearly this is an attack on humans, not just our economic activity.
In 1997, a global initiative – the Kyoto Protocol – was the initial effort to restrict economies with a goal of curbing CO2 emissions. The documented, projected effect of Kyoto would be to reduce warming by 0.04°C by 2100. It is also documented that with today’s technologies it is not possible to actually reduce carbon emissions while maintaining current economic activity. Either new technologies must be developed or current activity strangled to create reductions. Frankly, this should cause all of us in the thermal-processing industry to be concerned.
The European Union’s (EU) implementation of Kyoto shows the result of such regulation at the early stages. Gasoline taxes have gone up to $4-5/gallon, and they have started a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions. Despite this, the EU-15’s emissions have been rising more rapidly than the U.S. (5% vs. 1.7%). These early results are in line with the predictions of many experts who say that compliance with Kyoto would reduce global warming by too small an amount to measure – given the accuracies of the measuring equipment – with astronomical costs. By the time you read this, the June G8 summit in Germany has no doubt weighed in on these issues.
Let’s consider some of the reported science associated with global warming. During the last 100 years – the time period most often quoted – there have been two general cycles of warming and cooling recorded in the U.S. Nonground-based temperatures show no significant warming trend over this time period. There is also no evidence that extreme weather events are increasing in any systematic way. Warming and cooling occur in cycles with small-scale changes of about 40 years and larger-scale cycles of 400 years.
So, what is the human impact on carbon emissions? Scientists say that human additions to total greenhouse gases are 0.2-0.3%. Approximately 99.7% of the “greenhouse effect” is due to natural causes. An interesting study recently published in a journal of the American Chemical Society indicates that CO2 may not be causing global warming, but atmospheric warming – from natural sources – may be causing the atmospheric increase in CO2. How? A huge reservoir of CO2 absorbed in the oceans is released to the atmosphere as global temperatures warm.
What is causing the temperature rise that is creating the release of CO2? The latest research indicates that “changes in the brightness of the sun” are almost certainly the primary cause of the warming trend since the end of “the Little Ice Age” in the late 19th century. Perhaps evidence of this is the recent news that Mars is experiencing rapid climate change that may result in the loss of its southern ice cap. NASA says Mars has warmed by 0.5°C since the 1970s. This is similar to what has been experienced on Earth over the same period. Clearly, the sun would be the most likely common denominator as SUVs are scarce on Mars.
With so little scientific evidence on the side of human-caused global warming, political powers and the media have made this a moral issue. By virtue of this new “religion,” my editorial may be dubbed immoral. Nonetheless, it is scientifically accurate. It is key that before we allow legislation to limit our freedoms to conduct business in a manner to which we have become accustomed, we should be certain the science supports the “moral” positions taken by political entities.