Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Global Warming's Benefits

I recently received a solicitation in the mail from a group that was asking for my support of a petition to urge the United States government to reject the Kyoto global warming agreement. Their effort is called the Petition Project. Among other things, they stated that the United States is "very close to adopting an international agreement that would ration the use of energy of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds." Really, I was surprised to hear that we were close to signing on to Kyoto, and that it would ration the use of energies? The soliciation was backed by an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal from January 18, 2000 by Arthur and Noah Robinson (Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine).

Other material included with the letter made the following claims: "Research data on climatic change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful." To this end, the authors made such statements as "As coal, oil and natural gas are used to feed and lift from poverty vast numbers of people across the globe, more CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. This will help maintain and improve health, longevity, prosperity, and productivity of all people." More surprising, they state "Human activities are producing part of the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere. Mankind is moving the carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas from below ground into living things. We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of this CO2 increase. Our children will therefore enjoy an earth with far more plant and animal life than that with which we are now blessed."

The authors include graphs of warming trends for over two thousand years of data to support some of their claims, but I find it interesting that they copied an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal published in January 2000. With such compelling arguments and revelations about the benefits of hydrocarbon use and global warming, you would think that there would be more recent support for their cause. Of course, there is still some support, but their ability to bury real evidence of climate change in the noise of other data has diminished with time.

Perhaps this is a classic case of turning a bad thing into a good one? Because I think it is always of interest to know where someone may be coming from, I took a look at the website for the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. The look revealed that this privately funded group is interested in "access to energy" and "surviving a Nuclear War Survival Skills" among other things. Not really sure what to make of that. Finally, the Petition Project's return address is in La Jolla, California. Truly a lush environment.


Candide said...

This same group out of Oregon recently published a paper in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons alleging similar ideas, as well as displaying graphs that show a correlation between increased solar intensity and global warming...
Related to their claims that increased CO2 will create a better planet, many such "scientists" reference Sylvan Wittwer or New Hope Environmental Services, respectively funded by and a part of The Greening Earth Society, which was founded by a cooperative of coal-dependent utilities in western states (see the Union of Concerned Scientists website at for more information regarding this organization).
The pressure to declare that the future will be either undoubtably improved or unavoidably catastrophic causes many people to twist the basic facts in order to support their prediction. In reality, interactions between the atmosphere and biosphere are very complex. We can reasonably expect that many areas will become wetter, other areas will become dryer, and still other regions will experience both increased seasonal flooding and droughts. The biospheres response will be similarly geographically and temporally variable. Some areas likely will become more hospitable to a greater variety of plants and animals (i.e., Texas if we no longer get a winter freeze and still get enough water), other areas will experience increased pressures on already sensitive ecologies (the Arctic).
More interesting research discusses the variable impact on different ecologies (and our agricultural system) in response to long-term, localized variations due to climate change.

Candide said...
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