Cats & Dogs, Living Together

  • Posted: April 9, 2013
  • Category: Energy
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We are enduring the final days of a cold winter. In the Colorado Rockies, we have seen minus signs in front of the temperature. That’s not a good thing. Subzero temperatures often bring broken water lines in houses. And just my luck, it happened to me. For those who live on the beach in southern climates, repairing broken water lines involves a lot of getting wet, kneeling in mud and working with propane torches in confined spaces. Having the opportunity to do this in unheated crawl spaces that feel as cold as outside temperatures just adds to the fun.

 While I have always had an appreciation for craft labor and those who do it, I admit that I have spent my life avoiding it when the weather is bad. I think the word, dilettante, accurately captures my real nature. A great deal of my working life was spent on construction job sites. I took pride in being “out there”, not being an “office guy”, but someone who got my hands dirty. But when temperatures got low, the wind blew or rain/snow fell, I found that my presence was needed in the construction trailer.

 I also have to admit that my definition of cold weather has a fairly high floor. I spent a good portion of this cold winter in Southern California, which is a lot like my earlier retreats into the construction trailer. But winter in Southern California is no picnic either. The cold in Southern California is not an honest cold like we have in the Rockies. The temperature drops regularly down into the 40’s and 50’s. That doesn’t sound very cold, but it’s a damp cold that creeps into your bones. The nice thing about the Rockies is that we have insulated and well heated houses. When we go inside out of the cold, we can get warm. Folks in Southern California live in un-insulated houses, with lots of drafts and they don’t take care to keep their doors closed. Many times it is warmer outside than inside the house. In Southern California, you can’t escape from the chill and you never get really warm. The natives just walk around with a perpetual nasal drip, reminding me of my times on construction sites in East Texas.

 The recent cold that we have endured is a counterpoint to the climate change conversation in the newspapers and among the talking heads. With the victory of liberal thought in the recent election, it is again becoming a topic of general national interest. It may well be time to invest in wind turbine and solar cell manufacturers again. There will be new Solyndras in our future and we might as gain some advantage from the inevitable corruption that follows.

 Our President recently made climate change a theme in his second Inaugural Address:

 “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

 No less a commentator than David Brooks of the New York Times, thought this address one of the best Inaugural’s in the past half century. In it our President, Mr. Obama laid out a progressive agenda for his second term that is audacious in its goals. Prominent among those goals is the need to take action on climate change. Given the weakness, both in ideas and political power, of the opposition to climate change, it is very likely that action, significant action, will be taken by our country to combat climate change. We might expect this coming action to involve legislation, regulation and persuasion.

 President Obama said in a very public and significant forum that he intends to take action on climate change. We know that what he said was political theater. Bjorn Lomborg, a respected scientist and no right wing ideologue, pointed out the factual fallacies of the examples cited by the President (Wall Street Journal; Jan 24, 2013 – Climate Change Misdirection). The points that Mr. Lomborg makes are valid, but immaterial. The general public, the cultural awareness of the Western World, understand climate change exactly as stated by the President.

 We have been talking about climate change at a serious level in our culture for some twenty years. It would be untrue to say that we have not taken action. Al Gore, the most prominent prophet of impending doom, has increased his net worth by over 100 times since he began his crusade against it. I and my fellow scoffers can no longer buy 100 watt or 75 watt light bulbs at Home Depot. My local utility has worked a deal with the State of Colorado to strengthen its local monopolies on very profitable terms to the utility, at the expense of their ratepayers and competitors. It is obvious to me that our nation is meeting the challenge of climate change head on.

 But where do we go from here? More windmills? Tinier cars? More energy conservation? More moral posturing? It is hard to see how we will escape more of the posturing. Posturing, on both sides of the debate, is so much more satisfying than actually dealing with issues.

 But righteousness always comes with a price. The rights of landowners affected by windmills will continue to be trampled upon. Entrepreneurs and ex-government officials with the right connections in the hothouse environment of green politics will continue to make quick fortunes. As the price for their willing participation, regulated utilities will continue to ace out their non-utility competitors. As the price for our participation, whether willing or not, we will be draftees into the War on Climate Change. We look forward to the government bringing the same innovation and progress to the world of energy that it brought to health care. It is the shape of the future.

 But will we be a better society when all of this comes to pass? Those who share my dismay at this future will think, “Who cares?” But I think that the concept of a better society is the key to understanding the source of ideas and energy that power those who drive this coming change. Certainly the idea of a better society is the key agenda item for those most passionate about the need to deal with climate change.

 They hector us in a tone reminiscent of our mother as she was telling us to brush our teeth and clean up our room. Just as our mothers, they are assured in their possession of superior morality, wisdom and knowledge. If we do not change, if we do not abandon fossil fueled energy, if we do not radically reduce our energy use, we will be bad people. Even worse, our mother, and they, will be disappointed in us as people.

 Just as we rebelled and complained about our mother’s vision for us, we rebel and complain about the sacrifices the coming energy future will require of us. But even as we rebel and complain, we have accepted their superior wisdom and moral judgment, just as we accepted our mother’s. Our mother nagged at us because she wanted us to be a better person, so too do our green masters call on us to be better people, a people who fit their vision of a just and perfect world.

 Our mother’s were wise in the ways of the world and knew we sometimes needed a sterner hand. That sterner hand was our father. Our mothers warned of what would happen when our fathers got home if we failed to do what they told us. So too do our green masters call on a sterner hand to chastise us should we fail to heed their vision. They call on the god of our age, Science.

 Science, as a dutiful father, has declared that we will indeed suffer the Apocalypse if we fail to heed our green mothers. Science steps in to deliver the dire warnings and consequences that threaten us by our failure to be good boys and girls. Science speaks with power and credibility envied by those of us who actually are or were fathers. As I think about the situation we are in, my mind turns to a scene from a movie from the 1980’s. There is a scene in Ghostbusters, in which great scientists (Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, warn the Mayor about the City of New York’s failure to heed their warnings:

 Dr. Peter Venkman: This world is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

 Mayor: What do you mean “biblical”?

 Dr. Ray Stanz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.

 Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

 Dr. Ray Stanz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!

 Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes. . . .

 Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!

 Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…. Mass hysteria!

 Just as Bill Murray in the guise of Dr. Peter Venkman so eloquently warned the Mayor of a future in which dogs and cats would live together in violation of the natural order of things (, Science has spoken in similar terms to us as well.  Where science once dealt with facts and theories, Science now deals with Truth. Once science was content to describe the world as it was. Now Science pronounces how the world will be. Now Science pronounces how the world should be.

 There can be no argument that the energy used by mankind has changed our natural environment. Where once the maximum possible population of our world was estimated to be in the millions, we now live in a world populated by billions. Where once a person’s pleasing plumpness was a mark of beauty because of prevalent hunger and famine, we now struggle against an epidemic of obesity. Where once the scars of violence marked the bodies of one third of human adults, the actions of psychotic killers are stories followed on daytime television for months because violence is relatively rare in our culture.

 But much besides a brutal and subsistence level of life has been lost as well. There are great holes where once was level prairie. There are massive and stark alien structures on our skylines where nefarious industrial processes poison Mother Earth. We have replaced the cholera microbes in our water with trace amounts of chlorine and fluorine. We have replaced the soot from cooking fires in our air with carbon dioxide. And there it is, carbon dioxide, the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man that will make our world unlivable.

 We start with the facts about carbon dioxide. The levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere have risen dramatically over the past 200 years. The energy that created the world we live in today is generated overwhelmingly by the burning of fossil fuels. The hysteria that has been stoked over nuclear fission ensures that there is no viable alternative to fossil fuels. But fossil fuels contain carbon and when burned to create energy, the carbon in the fossil fuel is joined with oxygen from the atmosphere, creating carbon dioxide as a byproduct. The logic of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere being created by the burning of fossil fuels is compelling. To argue otherwise ignores the obvious.

 Rising carbon dioxide levels are a fact. But the conclusions about rising carbon dioxide levels are not. A dispassionate observer might note the rising level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and see it as a good thing. The same scientists that measure rising carbon dioxide levels today also have found the existence of high levels of carbon dioxide in earlier ages on our planet, sometimes greatly higher levels than those that now exist or are predicted. It turns out that our world has experienced higher levels of carbon dioxide before. As predicted by Science, those times of heightened carbon dioxide coincided with higher temperatures on the surface of the planet. Given the physical nature of carbon dioxide to retain energy reflection from the Earth’s surface, this is logical and what we might have expected. To argue otherwise, again would ignore the obvious.

 Within the realms of science, there are those that study what those past worlds were like when carbon dioxide was higher. There is general agreement that those times in earth’s past were warmer, sometimes much warmer. It is perhaps an inconvenient truth that those times were also times where life on Earth prospered and prospered abundantly. It is ironic that the logic of higher temperatures is the logic of energy. Rather than harsh desert landscape and struggling life, those times were of lush vegetation and prolific animal life. More energy allows for more life and more variation in life. The logic of higher temperatures leading to a better climate, a better life for more people, on our planet is at least as scientifically defensible as the current wisdom of Science about Apocalypse.

 This alternative vision is not without pain and suffering. There will be winners and there will be losers. If temperatures rise, ice will melt. It has happened before without being caused by our sin. It will happen again. As ice melts, ocean levels rise. Beachfront property will have a higher elevation, but there will still be beachfront property. Rising water will require people in some coastal areas to relocate as has happened before in human history. The North Sea now covers what was once a well-populated area of Europe. Some areas of the world will get less rainfall than they do now, making them less agriculturally productive. But in a warmer world there will be more rainfall rather than less. The land lost from rising temperatures to productive agriculture will be smaller than the land gained to productive agriculture.

 In any case, the seacoast will move, whether we burn fossil fuels or not. The icecaps will advance and retreat, whether we burn fossil fuels or not. The world is a constantly changing landscape, with or without man. Alexandria was once one of the largest cities in the world. The Alexandria that Julius Caesar and Cleopatra knew is now underwater. The Ephesus of St. Paul, that held one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was a thriving seaport. Ephesus is now several miles inland. Greenland was once green and the home of Viking settlers. Greenland is now a sheet of ice and cold rock suitable only for a wind and snow swept US Air Force base. But now we propose to make enormous changes in our nation and our life style in a futile attempt to prevent Greenland from once again becoming green land.

 Things change. All things, the Earth included. We know it. We see it in our own lives every day. When Science pronounces, it has an agenda. Agendas usually bring out our skepticism. For instance, when we go to a car dealership to buy a car, we bring our skepticism with us because we know the salesman has an agenda. But when Science speaks, we believe. Rational thought has always been difficult when a god speaks. Even those who retain their doubts keep their thoughts to themselves. The mob has been known to burn unbelievers at the stake, or deny them that job promotion.

 My own generation has little to lose by following this latest fashion in au courant thinking. The sheer inertia and size of our society along with the wealth of industrial infrastructure makes unlikely any real change to my generation’s life style other than inconvenience and indignation. But my children and my grandchildren face a more serious threat. To be sure public hypocrisy always breeds political corruption, but every age has its hypocrisy and corruption. The great danger to future generations is in their belief. They will grow up soaked in the sure knowledge that burning fossil fuels is a sure danger to their very existence. They will have faith. They will Believe.

 We must not forget that everyone does not live in our comfortable world, able to indulge in utopian thought. There is a world of people and nations outside our own borders that want a better life for themselves and their children.  One of the great geo-political strategists of our time, Henry Kissinger, understood the danger of utopian thought. Against those who believed in the Brotherhood of Man in his own day, he was unpopular for acting on the Machiavellian proposition that peoples and nations pursue their own self-interest, not a nebulous common good. At least for today there is no debate among the brethren , the United States and all other right-thinking members of Western Civilization have agreed on the evil of a warmer world. But as time passes, self-interest will begin to work its powerful hand among the peoples of the world.

 Rising sea levels and warmer climates are indeed a future that may be rightly feared by countries such as the Netherlands, Japan and other lowland coastally dominated lands. But that is not necessarily true of other countries. As an example, in northern climates like our neighbor Canada or Russia, warmth and increased rainfalls look to be a really good deal. Most of their land mass hasn’t emerged from the Ice Age yet. What has Australia or North Africa to fear from increased rain or a 20’ rise in sea level? Even in our own United States, is it likely that the “Red” states will desire to handicap themselves and their families to maintain the green fantasies of the “Blue” states?

 The rising sea levels do not threaten everyone. A warmer climate offers enormous advantage to many. Why should those at the bottom of the economic ladder cripple themselves to benefit those who have the advantage now? Large areas of our planet are cold and barren landscape. Large areas of our planet are now desert that were once lush and fertile with life. Many of these areas are contained in countries with large populations that matter, or will matter, in the world’s power balance. It is no great secret that electrical power is the lifeblood of a country’s wellbeing and power in the world. Electrical power generated by coal is cheap, reliable and easily installed. Why would anyone use anything else, unless driven by the fevers of political passions?

 And that is the essence of the problem. None of the proposed remedies offered as solutions to “climate change” offer anything real to anybody but austerity, a harder life and reduced circumstances. Windmills and solar cells are artisanal, not industrial. They are affectations, not alternatives. They are creations of the Eloi, not the Morlocks*. To anyone with basic mathematical literacy and not blinded by faith in the green god of Science, the proposed remedies are embarrassing.

 Windmills and solar cells may be the solution of the coastal elites, but other nations and cultures will see the poverty of those ideas and continue to build fossil fuel fired power plants. Those with fossil fueled power will have growing and thriving economies with landscapes that are growing ever more productive and fertile. We in the West are ok for now. We have such an advantage, both culturally and materially, that we can maintain our position and comfort for a long time. But eventually there must come a reckoning.

 Our children, or our grandchildren, or our great-grandchildren will face that reckoning. They will be true believers because they will have grown up in the faith. They will have the fierce hate that is the mark of the believer when confronted with the infidel. They will be faced with an enemy, an infidel, growing in power and numbers with every year.

*Climate, Energy and Christian World Views  –










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