Climate Change: Science vs. Denialists – Part 1 (Carbon Fuels and Conspiracies)

This post is intended to be a starting point for random thoughts and research about the climate change debate. Note that much of the CO2 emissions in our atmosphere are due to the use of fossil fuels for the last century or more, so much of the climate change debate is really about the use of carbon based fuels versus renewable and sustainable energy sources. So, this post will concentrate on the energy policy as the primary climate issue.

It is very disturbing that much of the evangelical (conservative) branch of Christianity in the U.S.A. seems to have adopted a leaning toward endorsing the very vocal climate change deniers. These groups claim that if climate change is real, there is no proof that it is caused by human action. They posit instead that the variation in climate conditions recorded in recent years is due to natural variation in global temperature, possibly a normal cyclical phenomena.  Some also claim that the data used to “prove” climate change has been manipulated to show a trend that is opposite what the original data indicated.

From a quick review of the background and funding sources for most climate change deniers, it is interesting to note that nearly all of them seem to have a current or past affiliation with fossil fuel industries.  Probably just a coincidence…

But what if this is not coincidental?  From watching the events in the energy industry as a whole, there does seem to be a very definite pattern of “wins” that benefit “big oil” and other extracted fossil fuel industries.  Here are some items that are noteworthy:

  • Nuclear power research in the U.S. was accelerated after the 197o’s oil embargo was imposed.  Yet much of the research then was shut down within a few years after the embargo was resolved. The initial push toward nuclear power, sponsored by President Jimmy Carter, was initiated to discover new ways to produce large amounts of electricity that could replace fossil fuel power plants.  If realized, these energy sources might have bought our country several more decades in which to develop sustainable and environmentally safe alternate energy sources.
    • Some of the most promising, safest, and sustainable nuclear projects, such as breeder reactor development, were shut down due to defunding of many Department of Energy programs.
    • Some of this nuclear energy research is finally beginning to start again, but mostly in countries other than the USA.
      • Note – Although the Fukushima disaster has put many nuclear development programs around the world on indefinite hold, nuclear power was considered relatively safe by comparison the existing alternatives. The extensive use of nuclear power in other countries has bought them time to begin the transition to sustainable energy sources. By the way, both the design and location of the Fukushima plants were called into question many years ago, so this was not an inevitable result that was due to nuclear energy itself.
  • While there are many legitimate concerns about the safety of nuclear fuel plants, there is already very substantial evidence about the safety, environmental impact, health consequences, and unsustainability of fossil fuels.
    • These issues have been well-known for over 50 years to not only petroleum industry insiders, but to many scientists and many high-level government officials as well.
    • Why would all these known issues be so poorly communicated to the public?
    • Who might have a vested interest in suppressing such information?
  • Funding for research related to solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and many other “non-conventional” energy sources were largely cut off in the late 1970’s after the end of the oil crisis.  Funding restrictions and lax environmental enforcement under successive Republican presidents essentially destroyed these developing industries before they were well established.
    • Who might have a vested interest in this event when the negative future consequences were well known?
  • A number of solar energy companies were bought by large oil companies to “expand their energy portfolio”.
    • Some of the solar energy firms did a little more research after being bought out, but few produced any substantial numbers of solar products.
    • Many alternate energy firms were simply shut down after acquisition by fossil fuel parent companies – perhaps to stifle any competition to petroleum-based fuels?
  • Oddly enough, many European and Asian nations continued research, production, and systematic implementation in these alternative energy fields.
    • Some nations, such as Germany, derive a substantial portion of their energy from alternate energy sources and they have a plan to be totally energy independent within the next several decades.
    • Ironically, Germany was spurred into action by the vision for alternate energy technology that was promoted by Jimmy Carter, so they have a 40 year lead over the U.S. in implementation of alternate energy systems.
    • So, what happened in the U.S. of A. after President Carter’s renewable energy initiative was negated by President Reagan? Hmmmm…
  • During the period when other countries were adopting alternate energy technologies at an accelerated pace, what was happening in the U.S.?
    • Most energy subsidies from our government were given to fossil fuels industries to “create jobs”, and keep down the cost of gasoline for the American consumer.  (This was basically a political bribe to keep Americans isolated from the effects of their huge energy consumption, and defer making politically difficult decisions to offer alternatives.)
    • Result – most of the alternative energy companies went out of business because the cost of fossil fuels was kept artificially low by government subsidies – which were funded by American taxpayers.
    • By the way, most jobs created by fossil fuel industries have been primarily short-term positions created by suppliers to the oil industry, not permanent employment by the oil companies.  So, many of these jobs went away after the oil fields were in production.  This would also be the case for the Keystone XL pipeline, which is being sold as a jobs creation project by Republican supporters.
  • The government also apparently outsourced the environmental compliance management of fossil fuel production to the oil industry itself!
    • Could there be any possible conflict of interest in this policy change?
    • Could this also be the reason for the public relations campaign that has attempted to discredit the EPA and other regulatory agencies?
    • Again, who would gain from relaxed environmental regulations and less funding for health, safety, and other compliance agencies?
    • Would these reductions in regulatory oversight benefit or endanger the public welfare?
  • There have recently been a number of “breakthroughs” in finding and developing new sources of fossil fuels, such as natural gas (extracted by fracking), oil and tar sands (dangerous to transport and difficult to process),and undeveloped coal reserves (extracted by strip mining or dangerous underground mines).
    • However, these “new” fossil fuel sources have been known for many decades, but were not developed due to high cost of extraction (environmentally as well as financially).
    • Unfortunately, consumption of these carbon-based energy sources will continue to have a negative impact on air quality (and probably climate change) in the long-term.  These negative consequences have been well known for decades within the scientific and environmental communities.
    • Continued reliance on fossil fuels will only extend the timeline to address these problems.  Maintaining our course of inaction only delays taking the necessary steps toward developing alternate energy systems than can be sustainable beyond the next century.
      • Note that fossil energy resources are only expected to last for no more than about 200 years, depending on the growth of energy demands around the world.
    • Considering that many governmental agencies knew about these limitations over 50 years ago, why have the leaders of our nation delayed addressing these future challenges in our national energy policy?
      • Seems strange that we would have so little regard for our great-grandchildren…that is unless a powerful and wealthy group have been actively lobbying for their own narrow, short term interests without regard for the future generations.
      • Now, who could possibly do something like that without a twinge of conscience?
  • Now, consider that many of the conservative think tanks that develop policy for conservative political causes were founded or funded by billionaires who have a vested interest in fossil fuels and relaxed environmental, health and safety regulations.
    • Might there be any possibility that some “conservative” policy positions seem to enable wealthy environmental offenders to “conserve” their own wealth, at the expense of nearly everyone else?
  • Of greater concern to Christians in the U.S.A. is that many of our religious leaders are on board with and even promote these “conservative” policies that have so many negative impacts on society within the next two generations.
    • Why would popular Christian leaders support such “evil” earth-destroying policies?
      • Could it be that many of them can benefit, at least near term, by promoting the notion that the return of Jesus is immanent, so the future of this world does not really matter?
      • This apocalyptic worldview  would bypass the objections to exploiting and polluting our own planet, thus encouraging a large part of the conservative Christian voting block to support these political positions and demonize anyone who disagrees with them.
      • This puts the believers right in the pocket of those promoting a “conservative” political and financial agenda.  Are religious leaders try to cozy up to these special interests, perhaps to gain power or contributions?
    • Ask yourself, who else gains from the idea of a nearing apocalypse?
      • First of all, those in the religious community may reap benefits from a continuing narrative about the end of the world. The preachers who predict the soon-to-come apocalypse (and hopefully the rapture of the church) gain higher church attendance (and revenue) by advocating this agenda.
      • Secondly, fear, drama, and sensationalism sell!  All the writers who predict and describe the apocalypse stand to gain from book sales on this topic. Of course, the publishers of the works of these writers also benefit.
    • Who else might have something to gain by conditioning our (religious and secular) populace to accept that annihilation is inevitable and may happen at any time?
      • Note that apocalyptic stories are widespread in popular culture – in movies, songs, music videos, fiction literature, and recently, a fascination with zombies.  All of these media can generate revenue for their industries by playing on these popular sentiments.
      • Hopelessness and cynicism drive entire industries that prey upon popular fears; mental health providers, drug companies who produce psychoactive medications, self-help programs that train people to think positively about their dismal lives, and promoters of alternate forms of spirituality.
    • Could it be that someone (or something) might want us to stop thinking about the future to distract us from what they are doing here and now.
      • Why would any group want that? (Perhaps those with something to hide?)

These actions and policies that have been employed over the last 50 years (at least) do not ultimately benefit the rest of the world or even the U.S.A., since our tax dollars are helping to fund the incentive programs that subsidize the fossil fuels industries. Why do “we the people” allow this?

Are we Americans so afraid of any change in our standard of living or comfort level that we willingly believe the falsehoods that support our fantasies, rather than deal with the reality of the world outside our borders?

Our children and grandchildren are already suffering some the negative effects of these past actions, and they don’t want to accept that the status quo is their inevitable future. They want to make real changes so the world they inherit might actually be in some ways in better shape than the one that older generations have left behind.  Hurray for them!

…Maybe there is hope for the future after all>

(Edited and updated on Jan. 19, 2015.)

References

[To be added later, if time permits.  Most of this summary is based on personal and general knowledge accumulated over the past four decades.  See links below for some source material, or just do a search on some of the key topics mentioned.]

Links

  1. NASA data about climate change <http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/&gt;
  2. International agency that investigated and reported on climate change <http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm&gt;
  3. Environmental Protection Agency information site  <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basics/facts.html&gt;
  4. Science-based viewpoints on climate change <http://www.wunderground.com/resources/climate/928.asp&gt;
  5. Climate change denier (blog no longer active)  <http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/main-conclusions-2/&gt;
  6. Climate change questioner and conspiracy theorist (seems to provides some balanced information)  <http://wattsupwiththat.com/&gt;

 

Related Posts in this Series

 Summary of Related Posts

In part 1 of this series, a suggestion was made that the politics of energy is driven largely by the interests of the fossil fuels industry to the detriment of pretty much everyone else on this planet. These groups buy political support via lobbyists and campaign contributions or other quid quo pro arrangements.

Part 2 of this series explored specific proponents of misinformation, their interests and agendas, their network of funding, and their methods of propaganda.

Part 3 of this series offered evidence from objective sources about the state of opinion in the legitimate climate science community and exposed the motives and misinformation of the deniers.

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About Hoosedwhut

Engineer - by education, training, and career experience. Philosopher - by inclination and choice. Amateur psychologist - by instinct and necessity. Amateur theologian - by birth into two distinct worlds...
This entry was posted in Climate, Climate Change and Sustainability, Energy, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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