The world has been infected by the worry of carbon based emissions and man's effect on the atmosphere and the environment. Environmental and social doctors have urged immediate action to cure this ailment. Pro and con, those who would deal with the problem have been strident with warnings and condemnations. Consensus has become a four-letter word. Politicians campaign on 80% reductions in anthropogenic (man made) carbon emissions. Nevertheless, the question is, ‘What can we do and what effect will it have?’
Few of the would be healers have presented objective facts. They demand that the public rely upon the pronouncement of experts, who support their side. Yet, they fail to disclose their covert agendas. As an educated non-climatologist with scientific training, I am not going to profit regardless of which side prevails. Therefore, I question both. Which side will be the almost prescient Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries where taking note of almost trivial facts led to brilliant deductions) and which will be the charlatans?
I try to base decisions on common sense but remember classes in material science that showed conundrums where the counter-intuitive was causal in an observed occurrence. I question both sides, rather than believing either. Naturally, both sides eschew wanton consumption, which is not the question.
The pro-anthropogenic side says the evidence is clear and overwhelming that humanity is the cause and only curbing humanity’s usage of carbon will save the planet. That is their justification for bio-fuels, taxation and carbon credits. I become suspicious when we are told that one can use as much carbon as desired, if you only buy a carbon credit from someone who wasn’t going to pollute that much anyway. I want to know how an accounting entry is going to help when total carbon emissions are still going to increase. When they say that India and China (responsible for 40% of anthropogenic emissions) are to be exempted from any controls, something stinks to high heaven. Or, should I say to the stratosphere? Paraphrasing a vernacular pejorative, ‘does their carbon not stink?’ Evidently not, as only the United States and to a lesser degree, Europe, are being asked to bear the burden of decreased utilization.
It is said that the US is only 5% of the world population but consumes 25% of the world’s fuel. I never hear that there should be any consideration, or offset, for the US supplying an enormous portion of the world’s food and driving the world’s economy. If the US is deprived of carbon based energy, that drive is going to be reduced, if not decimated. What effect will that have on the living standard of not only the US but the rest of the world? Just as it is argued that environmental insults are not isolated, but global, the same reality is seen economically.
What do the pro-anthropogenics say about carbon? It is very had to evaluate actual numbers. Values are not usually supplied with opinions. Some estimate that man is responsible for 1%, or less, of carbon emissions (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/14696694/?GT1=8506). It is rare that a periodical such as “Time” provides this information. The April 3, 2006 edition of “Time” (page 37) was an exception. That issue disclosed that man was responsible for 7 gigatons of carbon emissions per year � a seemingly horrendous number. That statement was followed by an even more horrendous report; nature deposits 80 to 100 gigatons of carbon based emissions each year! This means that anthropogenic carbon emissions are 6.5% to 8% of carbon emissions. If we ignore the 1% estimate and take an average we can say that man is responsible for 7% of carbon emissions. What affect will be seen by reducing anthropogenic carbon emissions?
If we accept the propositions being advanced by politicians, that US carbon emissions should be decreased by 80%, how will global carbon emissions be affected? First, US contribution must be factored. Since the US consumes 25% of carbon fuel, the US is responsible for 25% of the 7% which constitutes anthropogenic emission. That amounts to 1.75% of global anthropogenic carbon emissions. If this is reduced by 80%, there will be a 1.4% reduction in global carbon emissions.
If the reduction in man-made emissions is less than this drastic 80%, the global reduction becomes more minuscule. A 40% reduction in US anthropogenic emissions would result in only a 0.7% global reduction.
What do the policy makers have to say about the benefit of a 1.4% reduction in global carbon emission and the trillions of dollars that it is going to cost -- not just in the US but for the entire world? What will be the result of not just sustaining the US’s current level of consumption but actually reducing it by 80% over the next 40 years?
If the third world is suffering, now, due to abject poverty, how can they be helped by throwing the US into a recession, followed by a worldwide depression?
What will be the benefit to the global environment if the US reduces its emission and the developing world (particularly China and India) not only continue their current utilization but increase consumption? If the world has a fever, what good will it do to cool the North American continent while Asia applies a blowtorch? Is there going to be a benefit to any one other than carbon credit vendors?
It is na�ve to believe that Asia is going to curb their utilization of carbon-based fuel. They are too concerned with preventing starvation. China long ago cleared its forests. China is bringing on a new carbon fueled electrical plant every other day. It will continue building power plants for the foreseeable future. What is the benefit of US reduction in the face of Asian proliferation?
It is admirable to voice concern for the environment. However, no one can maintain the environment as an obsession of constancy. The only thing that has been constant about the environment is change. Species have been made extinct over the history of the earth. Some by man, some by natural reasons. Similarly, new species are being reported almost daily. Policy makers should look at questions of cost and benefit to the populous when they consider matters that will drastically change society. Enhancing their status in a specific clique should not be the overriding concern. Perhaps that is too much to ask of politicians.
Until questions of this nature can be considered and answered, it does not seem rational to destroy our society, and the global economy, for the hypothetical benefit of proposed 1% or 2% reduction in global carbon emissions. A benefit that will be overwhelmed by the increased utilization of carbon based fuels in Asia and the developing world.