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A Different Light on the Global Warming Debate

Part 1: the gas crisis, and hybrid cars

    I was going to start off by doing an editorial about gas prices. I mean, for those of us who have cars, we remember that gas prices seemed to hover at times around $1.50/gallon from 1997 through 2003 (I remember the 1997 gas prices because when traveling around the country by car, we looked for paces whee the gas price was $1.50 or cheaper). And as the “war” in Iraq grew more and more difficult (well, since the Iraq conflict started) gas prices started rising.
    I remember listening to news reports talking about about the price of a barrel of oil, how it was rising from $55, to $58, and people said in the news that the $60 benchmark would probably break the American public, that we just couldn’t take that. Well, just checked it out at Bloomberg, and yes, it’s over $60, and I haven’t seen that much of a stop in purchases of SUVs in this country. I even remember the White House Press Secretary saying to people when asked if Americans will have to change their lifestyle that no, Americans should not have to change at all — in essence, he was giving the White House seal of approval to continue spending.
    (You know how high debts are in our society now? But the answer has to be that we need to spend more, even if we don’t have it.)
portions of an article from the Washington Post 04/27/06:

Say It With Me: Supply and Demand

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, April 28, 2006; Page A19

    Nothing can match the spectacle of politicians scrambling for cover during a spike in gasoline prices. And this time the panderfest has gone all the way to the Oval Office. President Bush has joined the braying congressional hordes by ordering the Energy and Justice departments and the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into possible gasoline price fixing.


    American demand is up because we’ve lived in a fool’s paradise since the mid-1980s. Until then, beginning with the oil shocks in 1973, Americans had changed appliances and cars and habits and achieved astonishing energy conservation. Energy use per dollar of gross domestic product was cut by 30 percent in little over a decade. Oil prices collapsed to about $10 a barrel.


    Why don’t we import the missing ethanol? Brazil makes a ton of it, and very cheaply. Answer: the Iowa caucuses. Iowa grows corn and chooses presidents. So we have a ridiculously high 54-cent ethanol tariff and ethanol shortages.

    Robb (a columnist at the Arizona Republic (robert.robb@arizonarepublic.com, on Apr. 28, 2006) mentioned that “Bush says that the United States is “addicted” to oil, and that addiction constitutes a national security and economic security threat.” And you can argue the point when addiction is usually an uncontrollable and irrational need for something that’s harmful and doesn’t apply to oil, but when you hear references from the White House say that people should continue spending and that it will all be okay, you have to wonder what side our government is really on.
    I was going to talk about how political moves probably do have an influence over gas prices, because when gas prices seemed to double in 4 years, people were screaming for the President to do something about lowering the price of gas. And when people ask the government to help lower the prices of gas so people can continue heat the houses that they couldn’t afford or drive the SUVs that are only temporary status symbols for most, they’re asking the government to step in and take care of their lives from them. We’re supposed to be a country where we don’t want that much government intervention (which may explain why the Libertarian Party, an alternative to being a Democrat or a Republican, actually has close o 3 times the number of members in offices than the Green Party, since the Libertarian Party endorses individual rights and less government intervention). That same Arizona Republic columnist even brought up the fact that Bush “certainly shouldn’t be trying to reduce the price of gasoline. That merely increases the subsidization necessary to make alternatives competitive.”
    So... Gas prices are getting high again, and we’re scrounging for the cheapest gas station we can find so we can feel less guilty about driving to the grocery store. I’ve even sworn up and down that the next car I purchase (because people have hit my car, totalling my last two cars) will be a hybrid, because not only did I not want to use something that we had to get from less-than-friendly countries, but also because I wanted to be able to save money at the gas pump. I’ve been a huge crusader for this, and my husband would have to point out to me that i’d have to own the car for 4 years in order to break even, since hybrid cars usually cost more than another fuel-efficient car (like my Saturn).
    Okay fine, as long as someone doesn’t total my hybrid, I’d save money.
    And although I look at it in part as saving my sorry ass money in the long run, I also think it’s a smarter move economically. To use something that doesn’t use as much oil probably means less of an emissions issue in the future. And we’re supposed to be caring about the environment, right? I mean, I believed it before I saw Al Gore’s an Inconvenient Truth , but that movie even helped to convince my husband that there were real issues we as humans should worry about.
    And it’s not as if Al Gore is running for office again, so it’s not like he has any political gains from this, right? So it has to be on the up-and-up, this talk about what humans have done to the environment.
    And the thing is, the Objectivist in me starts to question my motives for going green... I say this because I’d get press releases from the Objectivist Institute, talking about how environmentalists are actually more interested in taking our rights away. It sounds like a stupid idea, but think of it this way: I knew a man who was a gung-ho environmentalist tree-hugger type (and I know that’s an insulting term, but if you saw the number of plants in my house you’d think I should have a greenhouse addition to my home...) who would ride a bicycle to work (good thing he didn’t have to worry about a job where he’d have to wear a suit, because in central Illinois it get bitter cold in the winters), and wouldn’t be able to afford decent Christmas presents for his own family (I remember his brother getting a bag of rubber bands this man had collected for Christmas one year). And if this life works for this college-educated man, he is more than welcome to it, but I think there are a lot of people who have worked for jobs in ears where they (A) can’t ride a bike to work because of the distance to their job or their need to dress well work their work, which they can’t do after a two-hour bicycle ride to the office. I think the Objectivist claim that environmentalists claiming that we should cut back on things to help the environment is something that would be too hard for people who live in the modern world to be able to do.
    And you know, they’re right — if my car choice to be green was to drive a car that never went over 35 miles an hour, I’d say screw it, I’ll deal with one of the more fuel-efficient cars out on the market now. But from what I can see, the hybrid cars can work well, and can be a cost-saving tool that would help our dependence on oil and the price of gasoline.
    So then I had to stumble on an article (you know that had to eventually start coming out, the articles against anything global warming-related) from the Recorder titled “Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage.” The article doesn’t say that the Hummer has better fuel economy, but what it outlines is that building the Prius creates a lot more environmental damage than other cars produced. That sounds silly as a general statement, but I have to say it first, and then back it up with the evidence. To quote the article: “As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.” (and my husband says he saw that area once when traveling north to go fishing, and he said that I really need to see this “dead zone” area to understand the gravity of the damage.) And the plant that produces the nickel “has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario... “The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down off the hillside,” said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.”
    Beyond that, this nickel, after being created in Canada, goes to a nickel refinery in Europe, and then it goes to China, where they produce “nickel foam” (I don’t know, apparently the nickel needs to be like foam to work in a hybrid car battery...) before going back to the United States for sale. I mean, I know Toyota isn’t an Americana company, but it’s just kind of weird that they’re paying people in countries around the world that aren’t the United States to make this product (with extremely environmentally unhealthy byproducts).

Part 2: the human influence: less than 1%
and how we hurt by trying to help

    I’ll start off with that percentage number first. My husband told me (how does he get all of these statistics?) that humans produce around only 4% of all of the CO2 emissions on this planet.
    Well, that’s small, probably thanks to things like volcanoes and other natural elements on earth, but that number is still higher than less than 1%. Well, he told me that number first, because it was the most impressive number. He said that he read that humans production of all greenhouse gases is only about .2% — or one fifth of1%. And yes all of those greenhouse gases actually includes the CO2 emissions.
    So I thought, okay, I’m going to search for this information on the Internet. And all I could find were articles like “Evidence of Human-Caused Global Warming Unequivocal”, or National Geographic’s “Global Warming “Very Likely” Caused by Humans, World Climate Experts Say” and “Climate change report says global warming ’very likely’ caused by humans.” Now, I know there may be a lot of liberal sources on the Internet, but there has to be something about what my husband knew as the facts. So I kept searching, and I found the article (finally!) in a letter to the editor titled “Climate Change is Not Caused by Humans.” Then I saw that it was posted on a Canadian Christianity site, and wondered if they had their own slant to try to lean the story into their own favor. So I skimmed the subheads throughout the article:
    1. Climate change: a theory
    The Big Bang is also a theory. Some just seem to have a little more evidence piling up in their corner than other “theories.” It’s also funny to see the phrase “climate change” and not “global warming,” because there previously evidence that the U.S. Government was more than gently suggesting to all government employees to not use the phrase “global warming” (since that sounds so harsh in light of media coverage) but to use the more benign phrase “climate change.” (Yeah yeah I know, this was a Canadian albeit Christian writer versus the word of an American Roman Catholic President, but you get the connection...) But the next subhead read the next subhead:
    2. Human CO2 emissions are comparatively small
    It didn’t give any statistics, but it at least was one person who actually talked about the amount of human contribution to global warming.
    Someone did email me a few stats they heard on the radio about it, but I can’t verify these figures yet:

    Human generated CO2 accounts for 3.2% of all CO2 on the planet. Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. If we factor that in then humans generate less than 0.1% of all greenhouse gasses.

    So I kept searching... And all I saw was an essay titled “The Earth Is On Fire” and saw some support for these contentions about Human’s influence on global warming: “First, we know that about 95% of the greenhouse effect can be attributed to water vapor as a result of natural evaporation cycles of the large water masses on the Earth’s surface. The remaining 5% is due to carbon dioxide and other gases. However, much of these gasses are also naturally caused largely from plant and plankton processes. Estimates vary wildly that the human contribution to these gases may be anywhere from 0.2% to an incredible 0.3%... So let’s review. The greenhouse effect is a small component of the overall global warming equation; carbon dioxide is a small component of the greenhouse effect; and humans contribute only a small component to the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Should we be worried?”
    So if the human contribution is that low to greenhouse gases, it doesn’t matter that even though in the past 200 years human industrial activity has injected carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it may not be that direct of a link to the changes witnessed recently in global average temperatures slowly increasing

    In Picker’s book Hitler: Legend, Myth & Reality, this following quote points out that even Hitler understood elements of science and nature in decisions he made about history and the world...

    “...North Africa was once a thickly wooded region and so was Greece. At the period of Greek supremacy and of the Roman Imperium, there were dense forests in Italy and Spain. At the peak if its glory Egypt, like yet another symptom of a people’s cultural decline, they cut down their trees without heed for reforestation and hence destroy the very means whereby nature in her wisdom conserves water.”

    Reading this made me think of a television show that talked about creating a “green” skyscraper in New York City. They recycled the materials from the old building (saving energy in not creating and using new materials, which oddly enough, isn’t common), collecting rain water from the roof to use for a fountain a few stories high in the center of the building, which actually helps to control the temperature of the building. They also looked for reusable wood for all furniture — meaning they only used wood from places where it was guaranteed that the forest land would be reforested. An engineer for this building was asked by Tom Brokaw if that’s a hard thing to find, “reusable wood,” and they said that yes, that’s actually a hard thing to find. So apparently we’re still cutting down trees like mad and not doing enough to bring those tress that we destroyed back to the land.


    Although it’s not much, I’m glad that last year for my friend’s wedding, we planted baby trees for them. For the marriage of two nature-lovers, we thought that we could give a gift of starting life by planting trees.


    Okay, so we hear that humans might not have as much of an impact as the more liberal sources would say. Even think of California; even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican, he is a man working with both parties to try to help solve California problems. One problem in California is the smog and trying to save energy, and in California they proposed a law to make incandescent light bulbs illegal. A Reuters article even outlined that “A California lawmaker wants to make his state the first to ban incandescent light bulbs as part of California’s groundbreaking initiatives to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.”
    You ever seen those efficiency light bulbs? They’re compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), and the often look like a coil instead of that usual elliptical shape. Although they’re more expensive than incandescent bulbs, CFLs have a longer rated life and use less electricity.
    So although they cost more, they sound like a good deal (the only reason I haven’t replaced existing bulbs with them all is because I have a stockade of incandescent bulb from my parent’s house when they sold our house to move across the country). But even though I keep hearing good things about them (like seeing cable channel shows about how to cut down personal energy emissions, that kind of stuff), I think heard a little more info about the production of these energy-efficient CFLs. CFLs have methyl mercury in them, which is actually a man-made molecule, and a lot more dangerous than other forms of mercury.
    Hmm. Not good that we’re creating something that seems more dangerous. But it can be destroyed easily, can’t it?
    Well, apparently not. People usually (whenever bulbs die, even these CFLs) throw the light bulbs away, or possibly recycle them (and I recycle glass, by throwing it into a recycle can where I often hear the glass crashing apart into shards when it hits the bottom of the bin).
    There goes some exposed methyl mercury.
    But beyond that, I don’t know if recycling organizations have any means to effectively separate the methyl mercury from the other parts of the non-glass that go into recycling (other than a land fill).
    And the funny thing is that I think I heard Rush Limbaugh talking on one of his shows that China is the only place where where low-energy bulbs are made. This means that the U.S. is not only losing money to another country, but also, by supporting work from things produced in China, the U.S. is probably invoking the production of more coal plants (which China uses in abundance for their energy), which is vastly worse for the environment. So the bottom line with energy-efficient light bulbs, is that on the surface without all of the evidence it sounds like a great plan. But we as humans, while shortsightedly trying to save the planet, may create things that actually bring us more harm.


    Then I got a hold of an article, titled “Creators of carbon credit scheme cashing in on it.” It outlined how there were to major players in the push for saving the world from global warming (yes, one of them was Al Gore), and it talked about the world of carbon credits (something that countries need to earn to adhere to the Kyoto Protocol, to prove the country is actually helping the environment). The thing is, carbon credits are something a less-than environmental country can actually “purchase” from a country with excess carbon credits, to be able to still appease the tenets of the Kyoto Treaty. (they don’t help a country improve their habits, they allow them a way to sort of cheat out of the system by paying something who’s better so they can pass in the Kyoto global warming school). But this exists, and countries can purchase carbon credits to help squeak through the system with a less-than-perfect record. The point of the article (amongst other things) Al Gore is the chairman and founding partner of his global carbon credit company, which has received more than $25 million on government research and development grants (from the U.S. Department of Energy, the DOE), and then are aligned to receive (although they produced results that proved the infeasibility of their plans) another $8 million from the government.
    So since Al Gore pays his own company for carbon credits, what on earth is he needing the carbon credits for? Well, this information was emailed to me (I think the sender heard this on the radio that day), and I saw this same about Al Gore in an issue of USAtoday:

    Al Gore’s home uses more electricity in a month than the average American home does in a year. He was given a speeding ticket in 2005 for doing more than 20MPH over the speed limit in a rented Lincoln Town Car. He drove an large SUV during the filming of An Inconvenient Truth. He states that he bought a hybrid but rarely drives. He drove a Cadillac Escalade (15 MPG combined fuel economy) to the Sierra Club Summit He states that he and Tipper live a “Carbon Neutral” lifestyle. What this means is that they “neutralize” all of the CO2 that they generate. How does he do this? By buying carbon credits. This is something that “world governments” and industry have cooked up to allow corporations to exceed EPA limits on pollution without facing fines (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_credit). He flew in private jumbo jets when travelling for his An Inconvenient Truth tour. These jets consume more fuel in a day than most Americans do in ten years on a transoceanic flight.
    The truth is out there.

    (I like the email sender’s X-Files crack at the end, but saying “the Truth is out there”...)

    We had to wait for the calls against Gore’s story to hit the media, and we found another one. “Gorey Truths” was published through National Truth, and it points out exaggerated evidence from Al Gore and his movie/book. Like, “The relationship between global temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2), on which the entire scare is founded, is not linear. Every molecule of CO2 added to the atmosphere contributes less to warming than the previous one.” Or like how the Kilimanjaro snow is not melting because of global warming but because of a 100 year cycle of a local climate shift, and “Glaciers around the world have been receding at around the same pace for over 100 years.” Remember the European heat wave we’d read about in the news a few years ago or see explanations of inan Inconvenient Truth? “The summer heat wave that struck Europe in 2003 was caused by an atmospheric pressure anomaly; it had nothing to do with global warming. As the United Nations Environment Program reported in September 2003, “This extreme weather [sic] was caused by an anti-cyclone firmly anchored over the western European land mass holding back the rain-bearing depressions that usually enter the continent from the Atlantic ocean.” In other words, don’t believe the hype: polar bears aren’t becoming endangered, and coral reefs (which I mentioned in a past editorial, v173, June 2007 cc&d) have actually been around for 500 million years (wow, that’s a long time), and during that time they’ve survived higher temperatures and higher CO2 emissions than what exist today. “There is controversy over whether the Antarctic ice sheet is thinning or thickening,” and “Greenland was warmer in the 1920s and 1930s than it is now.” The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, “We project a sea level rise of 0.09 to 0.88 m for 1990 to 2100, with a central value of 0.48 m. The central value gives an average rate of 2.2 to 4.4 times the rate over the 20th century...It is now widely agreed that major loss of grounded ice and accelerated sea level rise are very unlikely during the 21st century.”
    Wow, you try to soak this all in, and you don’t know what to think anymore) at least that’s the initial reaction).

part 3: tying it all together

    So if I’ve heard from liberal Al Gore that I should cut back on emissions and run to the first sources available (hybrid cars or CFLs), I might actually be running to products that while helping after they’re produced, actually do a ton of harm to the environment during their production. And although my husband can’t ride his bicycle throughout the midwest as a salesman for calibrator services (even if he had one of those IT bicycles Garrison created on South Park that went over 200 mph, he’d have a hard time carrying all of his paperwork with his computer and Blackberry while keeping his suit nicely pressed for presentations...), maybe we should all be people, like the Democrats often suggest, who give up on some of these “rights” — like a car, or heating our homes adequately — so that we can help save the planet from certain doom. But the question begs itself: is it really certain doom, and are the changes in the world because of us?

Copyright © 2007 Janet Kuypers.

U.S. Government Copyright © 2004
Chicago Poet Janet Kuypers
on all art and all writings on this site completed
before 6/6/04. All rights reserved. No material
may be reprinted without express permission.

the 2007 book Tick Tock, front cover The Book of Scars, 2007 prose collection book, front cover Life on the Edge, 2007 ccd collection book, front cover

my hand to an anim of jkchair