It seems few topics bring up more divisive arguments than climate change.
For whatever reason, what should be a rational and scientific discussion about changes to temperatures around the globe, ice melt or growth, at what rate global climate changes might be occurring, and whether changes are happening because of human activity or nature bring about extreme views and heated discussion.
The ubiquitous use of fossil fuels around the globe to power vehicles, heat and cool buildings, prepare meals, power our iCloud storage and charge our cellphones is cited as the primary cause of a warming atmosphere. Carbon-based exhaust gases emitted from burning the fuels are believed to trap heat into the atmosphere like a blanket over the earth.
Some of the most vocal cast blame on the fossil fuel industry and those who earn their living from it. “We must rapidly reduce and eliminate our use of fossil fuels to stop the growth of carbon into the atmosphere,” they say.
But it was an industrious Western society that learned to capture the power of fossil fuels that led to modernization of societies that raised billions of people out of poverty and improved people’s standard of living in the past 200 years faster than 2,000 years prior to that. “Won’t that same kind of innovation and technology come up with solutions to climate change, if it really is occurring?” others ask.
If there were easy solutions, there would be no arguments. Fossil fuels aren’t going away anytime soon, as renewable fuels can’t come close to powering our population’s ravenous energy desires. Even with efforts by governments, consumer groups and energy companies across the globe, renewables still lag in the amount of energy they supply on a percentage basis.
In 2017, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy (June 2018), the world consumed 13,511.2 million tonnes of oil equivalent. Of that energy, 85 percent was produced by fossil fuels (oil, 34 percent, coal, 28 percent, gas, 23 percent) while hydro (7 percent), nuclear (4 percent) and renewables (4 percent) made up the rest.
And even if the world were to somehow stop the use of fossil fuels today, climate change already underway will continue, two of the scientists who spoke at a climate change discussion at University of Charleston last week said during a meeting with Gazette-Mail staff.
But there are things companies, governments and individuals can do to reduce the damage of any inevitable change, said David Titley, director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, and Michael Mann, Penn State director of the Earth System Science Center.
“We waste one-third of our energy, one-third of our water and one-third of our food,” Titley said. Each of those takes energy to produce, transport and consume, so better management practices at all levels will reduce energy use and emissions.
Likewise, with the possibility of flooding, forest fires and storms more likely, they said, better planning and better management practices by developers, government agencies and citizens are needed to reduce the impact and inevitable risk of such natural disasters.
The climate is changing, and the argument over its cause is not going to go away. Let the extremists argue their points, while the rest of us work to adapt to and manage the inevitable changes.
—The Charleston Daily Mail, June 18