I commend President Obama for addressing the issue of global warming and the need to act. He has helped already with the higher miles per gallon standards on cars and perpetuating tax credits to invest in alternative energy which have been paying dividends. However, we do not have an orchestrated eco-energy plan to do what is needed to more aggressively combat this problem. We are already at least ten years behind on this and our failure to do more would be viewed as one of greatest tragedies by our children and grandchildren. Yet, two articles that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last weekend and one editorial by a national columnist in my paper today have interested me for both their begrudging acknowledgement of the climate change problem as well as a very childish theme in response.
This morning Charles Krauthammer, a conservative national columnist, wrote an editorial called “President Obama’s Global Warming Folly” which picks up on themes of the two articles in last weekend’s WSJ. The first was by Rusty Todd on “Why the Grass Should Not Always Be Greener” and the second by Holman Jenkins, Jr. “The Climate Change Speech Obama Didn’t Give.” In Todd’s article, it was noted we should be less concerned by the significant use of water to frack with as we waste more water in the US watering our lawns. In Krauthammer and Jenkins’ articles, it was noted that we should be less worried about addressing climate change as the Chinese will be using far greater coal and it won’t do any good. To me, that is like a child asking why should I behave because Johnny and Susie are doing worse things than me?
Two comments. First, water is a dear resource and we should be concerned about the use of water in many more calculations of Return on Investment, including its use in lawn irrigation and fracking. To this latter point, frackers and farmers are fighting over water in places like Kansas and California. This is before we get to the other environmental concerns of the toxic air and water pollution which are occurring. I would encourage people to read Steven Solomon’s excellent book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization” whose historical context lends credence to his concerns over our use of such a dear resource.
You may ask what does this have to do with global warming? Water is becoming a dear resource with or without global warming. The scientific models say global warming will make the drought areas worse and more prone to forest fires, while dumping excessive amounts of water in other areas through stalled weather systems causing flooding. This is already happening. Yet, as we look at ways to countervent this problem, we must factor in the use of water in our equations. Burning natural gas is cleaner than burning coal, but it is not perfect. Yet, if we must drain our water supply to get natural gas, not to mention all the other toxic chemicals that find their way into the air and water, then we are creating other major problems that global warming will exacerbate.
Second, the climate change comments are equally irksome, as we are beyond the tipping point on doing something about this obvious problem. Not that it matters, but I left the GOP in 2006 because of its stance on global warming. It was very apparent then, that the fossil fuel industry’s unhealthy influence over the GOP is causing smart people to ignore what NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and 97% of scientists are saying. Please check out the “The Global Warming Reader” complied by Bill McKibben, a world-renowned climate scientist. He notes the significance of Congress failing to approve an acknowledgement of climate change along party lines in April, 2011. He said that date may go down in history as a point when we could have acted, but did not. Due to their failure, the President is now picking up the reins and driving ahead.
If we are going to get others to act more responsibly on climate change, we need to do better ourselves. We need to more aggressively move toward alternative energy sources and build on what is already happening in our country on a confederated basis with solar, wind and biomass energy. By itself, California is the producer of the 7th most solar energy in the world (if measured as a country) and wind energy is in 39 states. My own state of North Carolina is the 5th most prolific solar energy producing state in the US and is home to Semprius, a company that produces the most efficient solar photovoltaic panel in the world, improving by 40% the effectiveness over the previous best model. And, these industries are producing local jobs, so it truly is not an either/ or proposition. I have learned recently that Strata Solar, a North Carolina based company that installs solar systems for businesses and individuals, has more orders than they can handle.
Let me close with a survey that USA Today did after the President’s speech. It noted that 65% of Americans are concerned or greatly concerned with climate change as problem, with 33% being unconcerned. The lowness of the 65% disturbs me as it shows how effective the fossil fuel industry efforts to create doubt have been. According to McKibben’s book, this effort to confuse the issue dates back to 1992. His book actually takes the time to show dissenting views, which I found very generous and even-handed. Yet, when you read the three articles and editorials above, you do see a begrudging acknowledgement of the problem after previous naysaying by the authors. At least that should be viewed as a success. Now, let’s go do something more about it and stop throwing childish tantrums.