One of the favorite tactics of environmental extremists and their invariably uninformed “celebrity” spokespersons is to claim with panicked voice that we are on the brink, the very precipice of irremediable environmental and ecological disaster, and that mankind’s very existence and continuation as a species, along with life itself on earth hangs in utterly precarious balance, frighteningly close to the tipping point of no return. And, as a consequence, immediate and sweeping government-mandated and rigidly enforced changes in everything from toilet tank water capacity to grossly cost-ineffective and unworkable “alternate energy” sources to automobile mileage standards to the closing of coal and nuclear power plants are proposed and imposed on the populace, “for their own good,” regardless of how disruptive, expensive, inconvenient, even dangerous and unnecessary the forced changes may be—and inevitably are. “Never waste a crisis”—even if it is a manufactured, fictitious crisis—is the watchword of those who wish to seize power and dominate and domineer their perceived “inferiors” in the populace.
Among the most absurd of the draconian measures proposed, and not far from being imposed, is a so-called “carbon tax” to restrict, even punish those who add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere through the combustion—burning—of such non-renewable fuels as coal, oil and natural gas. That carbon dioxide—a minuscule .03% of the atmosphere—is a “greenhouse gas” is true; that that is a bad thing, is false. Without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, along with the other, much more influential greenhouse gases (water vapor by far number one among them), the earth would trap less heat during the day and lose much more during the night. These gases which trap solar heat moderate the daily temperature swings on planet earth and make life possible. Without them, day time highs would regularly and substantially exceed 100 F. and at night the temperature would plunge below freezing, making agriculture—and human existence—impossible.
Furthermore, carbon dioxide is essential to all plant growth, as essential as water, sunlight, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Without it, not a single grain of wheat, not a single tomato, not a single apple—no food plants of any kind—would grow. It is not a toxic gas, nor a pollutant, but a necessary component of “life on earth as we know it.” Tightly sealed greenhouses in winter actually run short of carbon dioxide as the plants inside exhaust the limited supply in the air, and simply cease growing. Greenhouse owners have actually found it necessary to release compressed carbon dioxide into the greenhouses in winter to keep plants growing. And what’s more, experiments have shown that above-atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide actually stimulate more rapid plant growth. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels could well be a boon and blessing to agriculture and forestry, rather than the dooms-day threat the radicals always portray it to be.
One subject I have never heard addressed by anybody in the carbon dioxide/global warming controversy is this: was not all the carbon now found in coal, oil and natural gas (assuming these latter two are of biological origin; coal certainly is), present in the atmosphere at some time in the past before they became stored in the precursors of coal, oil and natural gas? This would certainly mean that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the past was much higher than at present, and yet—there was none of the run-away, irremediable global warming that the environmental doomists boldly assert is about to happen to us. How is it that a much higher atmospheric CO2 concentration in the past which obviously did not cause run away global warming then, will yet somehow most assuredly do so in the immediate future?
Furthermore, in spite of the embarrassing exposure in recent years of various “global warming” scenarios, projections, and computer models as either radically in error or deliberately and knowingly falsified to support the radical agenda, and the fact that the last 15 years have shown no measurable increase in mean global temperature, even so, the extremists continue to demand that the most draconian measures be immediately imposed on the populace to reduce carbon emissions. A huge “carbon tax” on all “fossil fuels” has been proposed to punish financially those who emit “too much” carbon—power utilities, oil and coal producing companies, airlines, trucking companies, and the like. All such taxes on business are of course and of necessity invariably passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Direct taxes on private citizens—for houses that are deemed ‘too big” or insulation that is declared “inadequate” or whatever other excuses the bureaucrats can dream up—and naturally higher fuel taxes of all kinds will be included in the mix.
Such policy, if and when imposed, is guaranteed to dramatically suppress American economic activity and damage and destroy businesses and jobs (the actual real motive behind the “carbon tax” proposal) via markedly higher costs of doing business, costs which foreign competitors, in nations without a carbon tax, will not be paying. India and China are the worst atmospheric polluters on the planet, and among the least efficient users of fossil fuels to power industry, thereby adding the most carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, yet they are not the targets of any of the greens’ ire and rhetoric. Hmmm? In recent years, American carbon emissions, rather than continuing to increase, have actually been reduced (partly due to the now five-years-long economic recession) to the level of the mid-1990s. Yet we are singled out as the global bad guys.
If carbon dioxide is really the most-threatening environmental problem we face, why do the greens oppose two courses of action that would either greatly reduce the use of carbon-based energy, or “sequester” “excess” carbon naturally? Of course I speak of nuclear electrical generation on the one hand and wide-scale planting of trees as carbon traps on the other. While some showcase the two actual cases of nuclear reactor melt-downs—Chernobyl, for instance (the product of collectivist government incompetence and bad design, by the way) and the Japanese tsunami of 2012—it remains a fact, that fewer people have died in all nuclear power production accidents and incidents combined over the last 60 years than die annually in the mining, transportation, and use of coal for electric generation. Besides the bonus of carbon-free electricity (if that is really the goal), more nuclear power generation would greatly reduce the environmental “footprint” of coal—fewer and smaller mining pits and spoil banks, along with reduced truck and train traffic from the pits and mines to the power plants.
As for the other option which the greens oppose, trees are extremely efficient fixers and long-term holders of atmospheric carbon, and could be planted by the hundreds of billions annually in our cities and towns, parks, farms and highway right-of-ways. Besides capturing carbon, they would keep our cities and houses cooler in summer (reducing the need for air-conditioning and the electricity it requires), reduce dust in the air as well as reduce urban noise levels, conserve soil and water resources, and ultimately provide the whole spectrum of tree products from food to fuel to lumber to paper to esthetics to wildlife habitat. That greens are vehemently opposed to employing trees as carbon traps to address the supposed carbon dioxide problem suggests that their real agenda is other than that stated by them.
Some, rightly it seems, believe this is the real environmentalist agenda: to destroy American capitalism, by whatever means, and using whatever excuse seems plausible. The government already mandates forced “conservation” via regressively smaller and smaller cars (which are exponentially more dangerous to their occupants in crashes than larger vehicles), attempts at compelling the purchase and use of much more expensive, toxic mercury-containing light bulbs, subsidizing grossly inefficient “alternate energy” schemes, dictating the design of washing machines and the whole enchilada of bureaucratic meddling in the lives of private citizens.
Because electric power is needed around the clock, 24/7/365, and not just when the sun shines or the wind blows, much vaunted “alternate energy sources” will—barring some very dramatic improvement in storage of wind-generated and solar-generated power beyond batteries—never play anything more than a relatively minor supporting, supplementing role to power generation by burning fuel (coal, oil, gas, wood), falling water (hydroelectric), or the heat of nuclear decay. Even geothermal—available around the clock—will never be a major component of electrical generation or heating purposes because locations suitable for it are few and far between (except in volcanic Iceland!). Yes, there are places where wind or solar power are the best, most cost-effective choice—remote locations: a windmill in the middle of a cow pasture which can work intermittently to keep a stock watering tank full (though even these sometimes need manual or powered pumping if the winds are inadequate), or solar water heating in very sunny locations or where fuel costs are prohibitive (e.g., the Negev in Israel or the American desert Southwest).
The sum of the matter: on the basis of very dubious evidence, and sometimes deliberately deceptive claims, some are attempting to stampede us into a panicked submission to extreme measures which are allegedly both necessary and “for our own good,” though they will certainly cause a much heavier tax burden and a much reduced standard of living, along with a much more pervasive and invasive presence of an overbearing government. They wish to mandate a “cure” for a “disease” which more than likely doesn’t even exist, much less threaten our existence. The prescribed “cure” is in this case much worse than the disease.