Thursday, January 30, 2014

Uncommon Common Sense

The essence of conservatism is common sense, which is why I support increasing parcel taxes to fund increased urgent care coverage. In fact, it’s a pleasure to choose where and how much of our tax money goes for a good use. Regardless of age, income, family size, or the other factors that divide and separate us, expanded urgent care coverage benefits us all now and our futures as we face the needs of aging. Alice and I want to live here as long as we can; there is no better place we want to move to.

Concerning common sense, the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved. Pipeline or no, Canada will produce and ship oil from its oil sands somewhere, somehow. A pipeline is safer and more economical than trains, boats, and trucks, and won’t be routed through town centers. One negative is that pipelines produce far less plant-feeding CO2 emissions than other means of transport. Another is that the Keystone oil will displace heavy oil from the Middle East, Venezuela, and other areas that do not have Canada’s substantial greenhouse gas regulations in place. For those who are thick as oil sands, please note that my negatives are dripping heavy sarcasm, just as foreign oil producers are dripping oil all over their pristine landscapes.

California has many droughts: in 1953; in the late 1950’s early 1960’s; the mid-1970’s; from late 1986 to early 1991; and several since 2000 including another five-year drought from 2006 to 2011. However, Californians have been extremely lucky “since the past century was among the wettest of the last 7,000 years.” 

Common sense indicates we should be aware of all this, but obviously we’re not since California’s population centers are far from its water sources and growing rapidly.  It’s not climate change, it’s history.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Huge Benefits of Fossil Fuel

In our many and varied travels, Alice and I have seen the benefits of fossil fuel use, and the struggles to survive without it. For example, in Tanzania we saw a village that recently was aided by Rotary clubs donating a manually operated water pump, a great improvement over the previous need to carry water jugs great distances from the river. However, its users still hand-pumped the water, then carried water jugs instead of turning on a faucet in their homes.

We have many colorful pictures of women walking by the road with jugs, baskets, or bundles balanced on their heads, and not just in Africa. In Guatemala, India, and in rural areas of Southeast Asia bundles of firewood as well as jugs of water being carried by women and children were common sights. In these areas, the vast majority of the population relies on traditional biomass and waste, mostly firewood and dried cattle dung, for heating and cooking. With increasing populations, the walks to gather fuel get longer, and the air in homes and villages exceed our “spare the air” standard every day.

Given these observations of living lives without the abundant, easily accessed energy we take for granted, I wasn’t surprised by a recent study that found that “(T)he benefits of fossil fuel energy to society far outweigh the social costs of carbon (SCC) by a magnitude of 50 to 500 times.” 

It’s common sense, which unfortunately is not commonly found in the developed world. We would like to preserve the lives of peoples of the developing world in an imagined pristine Eden, and they would like to live like us.

We don’t want to live like them, yet are surprised they don’t either. With economic freedom, Bill Gates thinks by 2035 they won’t have to. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Polar Bear Prosperity

It’s fund-raising time for natural climate change deniers and a photo-shopped image of a polar bear on a tiny ice floe in a vast ice-free ocean was used as their “poster boy” 

Brad Keyes at The Conversation defended its use: “The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’—and readers’—attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.”

Pity the polar bear. Global temperature was up 1°C, Arctic summers were 5°-8°C warmer, and Arctic summer ice was virtually gone. This occurred annually for thousands of years 130,000-115,000 years ago during the Eemian interglacial, and hit its peak 125,000 years ago. And the polar bear survived.

The polar bear also survived during the recent Holocene Climatic Optimum, 9,000-5,000 years ago, when Arctic temperatures were similar to the Eemian period, with substantially less sea ice than the present. And the polar bear survived.

None of these facts of polar bear survival during previous warmer, lower sea ice periods, seems to have sunk in with the natural climate change deniers. Recent periods of greater warmth, higher sea levels, and lower Arctic sea ice should register something in their feverish minds: our current warming following the Little Ice Age, the coldest period since the end of the Ice Age, is modest and unremarkable compared to previous warm periods. Within the past 10,000 years, the Holocene Climatic Optimum, and the following cooler Minoan, Roman, and Medieval warm periods were all warmer than the present. And the polar bears survived them all.

In fact, the polar bear population quadrupled 1960-2000, and is up 10%-20% from 2000 to the present. 

Surviving? They’re thriving.