Mazzuca: Is climate change science or religion?
Americans increasingly believe that climate change is real and that human activity is largely responsible. But even as new surveys confirm a growing awareness, the issue is still not a major taxpayer concern.
I have my own theory on why this is so, and it can be found in comments such as, “We’re not going to debate climate change…the science is settled,” a statement made by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” Such declarations epitomize the rigid attitude held by those whose beliefs on the matter more closely resemble dogma than science, and whose solutions need “a bit more fleshing out.”
Climate is a legitimate concern, but the real danger in accepting carte blanche that the matter is settled pre-empts much needed public policy debate in determining what really are the safest, most reliable and economical alternative energy sources; which greenhouse gases are controllable and which are not, and what potential solutions are realistically feasible on a global scale — realistically being the operative word.
We know for example that energy sources requiring large amounts of acreage, i.e., solar and wind, come at very high economic costs. Solar farms require 450 times more land and 17 times more steel, cement and glass than nuclear plants while creating 200 times the waste. And shouldn’t the fact that solar panels are manufactured using highly toxic chemicals such as lead and cadmium with no plans to safely dispose of them once their 20-25 year lifespans are over be a concern?
France generates 75% of its electricity from nuclear and consumer electricity costs are about half of what they are in neighboring Germany where only 12% of their electricity is from nuclear. Could nuclear play a more prominent role here; and what about geothermal energy, something we don’t hear much about?
These are topics that need to be presented and debated in the public square. But instead all we seem to hear from the left is that we have but 12 years before climate catastrophe. It seems the apocalypticists would have us believe they now understand Earth’s climate system well enough to accurately measure its behavior, isolate the thousands of variables that drive Earth’s temperature and then make predictions about what the planet’s climate will be decades into the future — such arrogance!
The fact is our understanding of Earth’s climate is at best rudimentary. And for all the talk about the matter being settled, not a single climate apocalypticist has ever answered the two most basic questions about climate: “What’s the ideal temperature of Earth, and during which geological period did it occur?”
And until those are answered, all else is speculation. And while speculation is essential to science, i.e., speculate/hypothesize, test/experiment, analyze, draw conclusions, speculation must be recognized for what it is.
Climate science is enormously complex and includes examining such naturally occurring phenomena as the Coriolis effect, planetary vorticity, ocean gyres, geostrophic wind, El Niño and La Niña weather patterns, and if space allowed, I could list several hundred more.
But instead of discussing how these and other factors influence climate and what if anything can or should be done to counter their effect, the strident voices on left give us their ill-defined Green New Deal, a notion that no one, including its sponsors, seems to fully understand.
While a handful of candidates have released their own attempts at a Green New Deal, those most closely linked to the plan have offered little in the cost of specifics. Meanwhile, the think tank known as New Consensus —ostensibly in charge of turning the Green New Deal into real policy — has published almost nothing substantial about it. Is it any wonder clear-thinking Americans are reluctant to buy into a pie-in-the-sky notion with no specific plans, protocols or estimated costs?
Yes, the earth’s climate is changing, but then the earth’s climate has been alternately warming and cooling for four and a half billion years. There’s an expression that’s quite apropos in this matter, i.e., “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
And as we move away from fossil fuels, a truly reasoned approach to the subject at large entails examining all potential causes and realistically assessing potential solutions, not just accepting the easy answers or globbing onto the next bright shiny object.
An open and honest examination of climate change does not begin with the sentence, “The science is settled.”
Quote of the day: “A mind is like a parachute, it only works when open.” —Frank Zappa
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.