Friday, December 19, 2008

I write brief articles for a newsletter. Here is my take on global warming, from an article I wrote earlier this year. Note that my audience for this article are some pretty "green" people.

"Keeping your eye on the ball
Global warming- What a big distraction. There, I’ve said it. This is an enormously contentious topic right now, and very much in the news, with Al Gore getting accolades and attention, various government entities from cities to the U. N. struggling with what to do, and all the rest of us wondering how bad it might be.
I submit that we are getting sucked in to a major distraction from what is really more important. I happen to think that the world, and especially the U.S., needs to learn how to transition to a sustainable economy. The conversion and utilization of energy is at the heart of any culture’s day to day activities. Reliance on fossil fuels is a dead end addiction, which we must solve. However, if all our efforts are focused on reducing global warming, we may not be solving the real problem. That is, coming up with a renewable source of energy sufficient to keep us from repeating the dark ages.
What if burning fossil fuels did not cause global warming? What if our scientists came up with a way to sequester carbon, or counteract the CO2 greenhouse effect? In fact, as I write this, it was just announced the Futuregen Alliance will be building their new technology coal fired plant in Mattoon, Il, and hope to figure out how to inject the CO2 back under the Illinois prairies when they are done with it. So when the coal is gone, We will still be confronted with the problem of facing the “end of cheap fossil fuel” cliff without a parachute. The strategies that might be proposed to reduce global warming ( or to learn how to live with it) may not solve our future energy needs, but if we begin the immediate, methodical steps of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, we will be taking the best step toward avoiding further climate impact.
One could argue that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still OK, but what if we end up doing the wrong thing because we have chosen to fix a symptom instead of the central problem? To be clear, I’m not saying I don’t think warming is happening, or that it is not a problem. I just think that solving the upcoming energy crunch is the real crux.
Maybe it is time for another major transition in human culture. Similar to the way humans figured out agriculture, we need to move from the hunter gatherer mode of energy use. Currently, we drill for oil, suck the field dry, and move on to the next one. The future could be one of a harvesting mode, where we collect sunlight and wind energy. Even if our population stabilizes soon , we are already using more than a planet’s worth of annual output to maintain our standard of living. We are already literally burning through the principal of our planet’s natural savings account, instead of learning to live on the interest.
Ironically, we are going to transition to an economy that does not run on fossil fuels in the next 50-100 years regardless. I prefer that we start a planned, smooth transition to sustainability, instead of an uncontrolled, abrupt one. One could wax apocalyptic here, but I intend to be optimistic. Eating local, starting little green habits each day, connecting with and encouraging others, educating myself all the while, are all independent of the political process. That’s what I plan to do. Keep my eye on the ball."

Well, there I've done it. Put an opinion out there. If anyone wants to comment, feel free.


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