Letter: Dire climate predictions deserve debate
Climate change is projected to have catastrophic consequences for mankind. In spite of alarms raised for the past 30 years, climate deniers have either dangerously ignored or have surrendered to the coal, oil and gas lobbies. Let’s have another look.
Two undisputed facts: 1. From 1850 till now, world temperature increased by approximately 2 degrees. 2. Most scientific thought attributes this to human activity.
Let us catalog the consequences. Population increased from 1 billion to 7 billion. Agriculture production increased proportionally. The threat of hunger, ever-present in preindustrial times, was almost eliminated. Food, once a substantial household cost, is affordable and available in great varieties year-round. Keeping warm in winter and cool in summer is effortless and widely available. Darkness turned into daylight. Transatlantic travel went from 30 days to 10 hours and safe. Same for land transport — the Oregon Trail was one long graveyard, with perhaps 80 of 100 travelers surviving. The workweek was reduced from 67 hours to 47 hours. Life expectancy increased from 37 years to 79 years. No walking behind a plow or hauling water from a well. No weavers slaving before looms. Distribution of news information or knowledge was reduced from days to seconds. Overall quality of life immeasurably improved.
We live in a carbon world. We learned how to release 300 million years of concentrated solar energy to use when and where it is needed. Ten thousand years of struggle has been dramatically altered since the age of steam.
Yes, there were costs. Miners died. The air was dirtied by coal smoke, and land was scarred by railroad tracks. Rural roads turned into paved highways. Rivers were dammed. Mountains were pierced by tunnels, and workers died digging them.
Yet, by any measure, benefits of the carbon age have greatly outweighed its costs.
Yes, continued generation of greenhouse gases will result in higher global temperatures. Building 100,000 windmills would not stop that. The only meaningful action is a mandate to cap world population at its present level. Not likely.
The central question arises: Is it true or false that the consequences of global warming since preindustrial times have been largely beneficial to mankind? Winters in Chicago have been more pleasant. Much less salt on streets. No mounds of snow to obstruct traffic. Heating bills measurably reduced. Wheat crops in the northern parts of the country substantially increased. Ocean levels, according to published scientific measurements, have increased from minus 8 centimeters to plus 12 centimeters for a total of 18 centimeters. But Pacific islands have not disappeared. Florida beachfront properties have not been abandoned.
Why is the forward global-warming trajectory projected to be so malignant?
The scientific findings about the past 200 years are not in dispute. But dire (think of Y2K ) forecasts of unmitigated disaster do deserve a full-throated debate.
Full disclosure: Politically I have been a lifetime progressive Democrat.
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