Friday, February 4, 2011

Ohio's Deep Freeze...

Understanding the workings of world climate conditions is anything but simple. But global warming, in very simplistic terms, is the theory that the average temperature of the world is increasing due to the burning of fossil fuels.

Heavy icing
It's hard for those of us in the Midwest of the United States to immediately attribute our more frequent deep freezes to global warming. Nonetheless, I have long been a supporter of the notion of global warming and all of its negative effects on the environment and society. Intuitively, it makes sense to me, even if I don't understand many of its nuances. I always thought that detractors of the theory were oil-industry stooges, including the many politicians beholden unto them.

But if I'm going to be really honest with myself, I also have to admit that I want to believe in global warming. I mean, there's got to be a reason for why I have to deal with increasingly extreme weather in my life, and I don't want to believe that it's all part of a natural cycle of temperature change over millennia. Besides, I really don't like oil and gas. I don't like paying exorbitant heating bills and $3 per gallon for gasoline for my car. Yes, since I want there to be an excuse other than nature, fossil fuels and oil-industry greed are pretty good targets. After all, fossil fuels are nasty and unpleasant materials. And many companies make sinfully large profits from them, because we all are addicted to fossil fuels--and dependent upon them.

So for lots of reasons, I guess I am motivated to believe in global warming.

It came as a shock, therefore, when I read Micheal Crichton's novel, State of Fear, and learned that there are many, many legitimate scientific studies that either refute claims for there really being global warming, or simply point out flaws in other studies that support global warming. No, Michael Crichton is not a scientist, and yes, he does have a pretty amazing imagination. But he IS a thorough researcher who is happy for others to validate his claims, and his book contains a 37-page annotated bibliography citing his sources.

A quick search of the World Wide Web will show dozens of responses, both positive and negative, to Crichton's novel and conclusions. But when someone like Crichton says we need to question our assumptions, it's not the same as coming from an EPA-funded or BP-funded researcher; attention must be paid.

By the way, Crichton does not claim that global warming is a sham. His point was that there are many motvations researchers, organizations, governments and businesses have for supporting certain views and conclusions about global warming, and we need to be aware of them. Furthermore, since the media has latched on to the idea of global warming, right or wrong it keeps getting reinforced in viewers' minds. The "truth" seems to be that the findings from research as a whole are contradictory. Crichton's point is that we don't really know the truth at this point, and a lot more independent research needs to be done.

So where does that leave us?

After being troubled by this question for several days, I've come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter whether or not global warming exists, since it's tangential to the real issue we should be looking at.

We need to be developing renewable energies like wind and solar power anyway, because, very simply, they are preferable to burning fossil fuels:
  • Their technologies are far-less invasive to their surroundings;
  • They don't have to be "refined," as does crude oil, so there are no extra steps and extra costs involved;
  • They can be harvested "on-site," rather than brought in from afar;
  • Since they're local, renewable energies don't depend upon cooperation from foreign governments (who, by the way, don't particularly like us...);
  • Since they're locally harvested, renewable energies require a local workforce, which is ultimately healthier for our economy and citizenry;
  • As long as it's not excessive, no one has to be worried if the sun shines on your face or the wind sweeps through your hair. The same can not be said for fossil fuels.
  • Etc., etc., etc.
This, for me, is the REAL issue, and has nothing to do with global warming directly. If global warming really does exist, then moving to renewable energies will help reduce it. But if global warming doesn't exist, then using renewable energies is a better way to go, anyway. As far as what we should be doing here, global warming is a non-issue.

I think we've lost sight of what's really important.