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Climate Change: Discussion Amongst Experts

I have hashed out the climate discussion with my colleagues and have also researched enough to come to my own conclusions.  Note that I AM NOT THE EXPERT.  My consensus has been that we (humans) must have some impact on climate change.  However, I also believe that there are to many unknowns and uncertainties that must be reined in before establishing expensive policies in this regard.  One of my favorite economists, Russ Roberts, brought opposing views to the table to discuss the topic in an edition of EconTalk.EconTalk

I encourage anyone seeking enlightenment on the debate to listen to it HERE.

Dr. John R. Christy is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville where he began studying global climate issues in 1987. Since November 2000 he has been Alabama’s State Climatologist. In 1989 Dr. Roy W. Spencer (then a NASA/Marshall scientist and now a Principal Research Scientist at UAH) and Christy developed a global temperature data set from microwave data observed from satellites beginning in 1979. For this achievement, the Spencer-Christy team was awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1991. In 1996, they were selected to receive a Special Award by the American Meteorological Society “for developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.” In January 2002 Christy was inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Kerry Emanuel, from Wikipedia:

Kerry Andrew Emanuel (born April 21, 1955) is an American professor of meteorology currently working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. In particular he has specialized in atmospheric convection and the mechanisms acting to intensify hurricanes. He was named one of the Time 100 influential people of 2006.[1] In 2007, he was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.[2]

He hypothesized in 1994 about a superpowerful type of hurricane which could be formed if average sea surface temperature increased another 15C more than it’s ever been (see “hypercane”).

In a March 2008 paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, he put forward the conclusion that global warming is likely to increase the intensity but decrease the frequency of hurricane and cyclone activity.[3] Gabriel Vecchi, of NOAA said of Emanuel’s announcement, “While his results don’t rule out the possibility that global warming has contributed to the recent increase in activity in the Atlantic, they suggest that other factors—possibly in addition to global warming—are likely to have been substantial contributors to the observed increase in activity.”[4]

In 2013, with other leading experts, he was co-author of an open letter to policy makers, which stated that “continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”[5]

I look forward to hearing what insights were gained, what was learned or what wasn’t learned.

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • Tim Crutcher June 19, 2014, 10:18 pm

    Way back when I was in school I learned about global cooling. That was the consensus of scientist.

  • Larry Gade June 20, 2014, 1:48 am

    I had a strange pain in the muscles of my left leg and even down into my foot about 3-4 weeks ago. Thought I had maybe tweaked my sciatic nerve but when I developed blisters on the bottom of my foot my wife suggested shingles. I looked up images of shingles and was sure that was what I had. I read it was important to get meds asap, so I called the doc’s office on Saturday and talked to the on-call doc. I explained what I thought I had and he questioned it because of the location that was not typical, but then suddenly he said that’s OK. I will send in a prescription because THE MEDS TO REMEDY THAT WON’T HURT YOU. Now I had to spend a little money and make a night time trip to Walgreens but it was worth the price to get the meds even if I didn’t need them.

    We have an environmental problem and I doubt anyone would argue that pollution is a positive thing in that regard. It has to hurt, at least to some degree. Using clean energy is going to cost, but the things we can do that are determined to be worth the price, should be done and as soon as possible. If some time in the future we figure out that what man did was of no consequence, at least we would have taken prudent steps, in case they were.

    BTW it was shingles and it was very important that I got the meds when I did. If it’s not treated in a timely manner, you can develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a form of neuropathic pain that can last for months or years, even after the virus is no longer active. Sort of reminds me of what MIGHT happen if we don’t take care, at least the best we can, of our environment.

  • Josh Crutcher June 20, 2014, 2:03 am

    At this point, the only viable clean energy is nuclear power. I could be for a plan adopting it, but it would make sense to have some direction and a viable plan before going down that path. For example, if we were to operate electric vehicles, the nuclear option makes incredible sense. On the other hand, the technology is not there, nor affordable, nor desirable to the consumer.

    The two experts discussing it on the panel from the post agree mostly on the uncertainty of the causes. There is not a single accurate model. Not a single scientist anticipated a 15-year pause from 1999 to today. Its a multiple regression problem with thousands of variables, carbon only being one of them, and far from having the most correlation.

    I favor a consciousness approach at this point. Before handicapping our economy and subsidizing others, a first step in my opinion would be greater consideration of the nuclear option.

  • Larry Gade June 20, 2014, 2:10 am

    So you don’t think when you see a smoke stack spewing whatever into the sky that it is a bad thing for the environment? Do we really need any studies to know that it is to some degree bad? I’m not sure nuclear is a good option either. At least with fossil fuels it may take 100 years to destroy ourselves, while with a nuclear accident or 2 we could probably accomplish that much more quickly.

  • Josh Crutcher June 20, 2014, 2:49 am

    I am not disagreeing with you Larry, but you have no viable solution besides cutting off power to 91%+ of people (much greater in my area) by vying for only renewables. To not consider nuclear energy is unreasonable.

    I know that energy does this world much more good than harm. African countries would love to have the luxuries electricity provide us, most of which comes from dependable power. There lives and economies could be impacted immediately.

    Is that smoke stack bad? Do you drive a car Larry? Do you use electricity? If so, your footprint individually is greater relative to the power plant. Do you use any natural gas?

    If you answer yes to any of those, you have made the decision that the opportunity cost for you to drive an automobile, light your home, mow your lawn, etc is greater than the damage is does to the environment.

    We cannot use any other sources right now to offer the same output!!! What would you have us do?

    You ask, are the stacks bad? By what standards? If you are speaking globally then they are great in comparison. Do you know how much we have already implemented from past regulations as far as sulfur scrubbers and filtration?

    I would love to run the world on solar and wind if possible. It is not. We aren’t even close. Every type of renewable resource is currently far less efficient and altogether combined for less than 9% of energy supply.

  • Larry Gade June 20, 2014, 3:09 am

    I don’t have the energy or the money to develop a way to generate my own power and I don’t think I’m much different than most who have concerns, but are pretty much dictated to by the power companies. It seems to me that any kind of alternative is quickly dispatched. A man in Lexington bought 2 Tesla cars and took one to the east coast and drove it all the way to the west coast, only stopping to recharge at Tesla charging stations, so there are things that can be done, if we, as a society want to do them. I doubt seriously that the power it took to charge that car was even close to the environmental impact if it ran on gasoline. Tesla is getting booted from New Jersey (I think NJ) and won’t be able to sell cars there – some goofy law that only applies to car companies. That kind of thing, I just don’t understand. I am not saying we have a lot of choices at this point. Just would love to see more advancement in alternatives, like the road made of solar panels that I read about.

  • Josh Crutcher June 20, 2014, 3:20 am

    I would agree, Larry. But you have to realize several things:

    1) Tesla cars are expensive. And they are for a reason. You cannot ask poor, wait, upper class families to purchase these types of vehicles.

    2) On the same note, you cannot expect poor, wait, upper class individuals to spend the money for solar and make the living sacrifices that come with it.

    3) THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT – in my opinion. We have better places to start than this war on power. I highly recommend David Sandalow’s “Freedom from Oil”. He discusses things that politicians are afraid to discuss such as our current CAFE standards. This is the absolute first place to start!!! Didn’t you once own a Ford Ranger (or Chevy S10)??? Do you know why they made these vehicles?

    We have other avenues that can hit these issues dead on that have a tangible, measurable, and financial impact. There are too many known opportunities to be chasing unknowns…

  • Larry Gade June 20, 2014, 3:27 am

    I think I know a little about what you are talking about. I have read some things on alternatives to petroleum based plastics that are proven and been around a long time.

  • Larry Gade June 20, 2014, 3:27 am

    I did own a Ranger.

  • Josh Crutcher June 20, 2014, 3:44 am

    I’m talking more about how Ford and Chevrolet have been able to skirt fuel standards. Cars are grouped in classes and must meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards established in 1975. Of course, demand is high on the huge gas-guzzlers getting 9 mpg. Unfortunately, GM and Ford could not meet CAFE mileage class requirements for the light truck class. They addressed this issue by introducing small trucks that could bring the class mpg averages up. The Ford Ranger paved the way for the 150’s federal approval.

    What it boils down to is a politicized numbers game. Once, you were awarded for flex fuel vehicles in the standards even though the vehicle could only run on one… Meaning you had a 20-gallon ethanol tank and 20-gallon gas tank and your CAFE mpg’s were based on what you could get on that 40 gallons…

  • Josh Crutcher June 20, 2014, 4:49 am

    I don’t if you listened to the debate – but it is informative from all sides. I encourage you to do so if you haven’t. I’d be interested in Larry Gade and Gayle McDanal Norton’s perspective on the debate. EconTalk is available on PodCast if that is something you do.

  • Larry Gade June 20, 2014, 11:01 am

    I will when I get some time. Thanks, Josh.

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