Green Lies

Was reading the latest expression of dismay by the IPCC regarding Canada’s climate change un-policy. And the excellent columns by Parker Gallant in Wind Concerns about the Ontario curriculum changes and educational indoctrinations to support the current ‘green’ viewpoints. Reminds me of something attributed to the Jesuits about getting a young mind and owning them for life… a pity that education here about is more about job training and ideology than clear thinking. Part of what convinces me that climate change in the catastrophic mode is inevitable.

Entropy increases — unstable systems oscillate back and forth until a stable, but chaotic equilibrium is reached. The planets’ climate has been swinging back and forth for a long time — if people have influenced it then most likely we have just hurried it up. Rolling it back to some historic ‘golden’ age is likely impossible even if we were gods, rather than just thinking we are. The sun adds heat to the system continually and global circulation distributes it. Some energy is used to drive our ecosystem and some radiates off into space, more when the globe is covered in glaciers, right now not so much. But as I understand it, warming is essential to get the conditions we need to increase precipitation and start the glacier cycle again. Your climate models may be different — and reality, as usual, has the only correct model.

Making technical and cultural changes to ‘roll back’ or ‘slow down’ climate change means going against basic human greed. As long as making money and being environmentally callous has the enthusiastic support of governments (Canada on tar sands, pipelines and occasionally asbestos) doing the environmentally responsible thing is unlikely. And lets face it, conservation and higher prices for less are just not popular ideas. And from reading the tripe being passed out by Ontario to children, it really seems that rather than saving the planet the real goal is to roll back the clock to some sort of 19th or 18th century status, the last time we tried to run a society on entirely ‘renewable’ energy — wind, sun (and lots of manure).

Well, we have part of it — people working for less and less money, rollback of voter and worker rights, environmental rules, journalism. Politicians who break laws and lie to the electorate (who increasingly work for the government rather than the other way around). More one man rule, less freedom in many directions justified by ‘i want’ rather than provable evidence.  More corruption in public office rather than less. It goes on and on.

As I have mentioned before, all energy sources are renewable — but some on much longer timescales than others. Solar comes up every day unless there are clouds. Wind blows as long as there are temperature and pressure differentials — these shift daily and seasonally. (And as a result of climate change.) Burnable materials — biofuels, wood, coal, oil and gas, all come from carbon reactions of living things but require various geological processes to transform into the familiar forms over time (sometimes a lot). Fissionable materials, like just about every other part of the material world, come from supernova explosions — so if we ‘blow’ through what we have there may be a bit of a delay ’till the next lot comes through. But we can be a lot smarter with what we have — unlike coal or oil, nuclear ‘burning’ is a transformation that produces other ‘burnable’ materials that we currently ignore. Or we could master fusion — the only real generative process that takes hydrogen and squeezes it into everything else, even black holes. Neat trick if we ever figure that one out. And is the universe as a whole renewable or recyclable?

But on a more realistic note, since we discovered fire, leaps in civilization were driven in part by finding increasingly powerful sources of energy.  Fire gave us cooking, ceramics and metals. Steam gave us mechanical muscles to lift, shape and carry. Electricity brought the day to the night and enabled revolutions in countless other fields. High energy liquid fuels gave us mobility and flight, even beyond our atmosphere.  Nuclear fission, besides really big bombs, offered a reasonably clean and safe form of power generation — but fear mongering and a couple of really big screwups seems to have crashed that effort.  A pity, because it has real promise but needs a lot of engineering to work out the problems. And as for radiation, the fearmongers conveniently ignore the effects of the hundreds of nuclear bombs exploded world-wide on the general populace. The US war on Nevada and Utah dumped fallout all across the US over and over — Chicago, where I grew up, was right in the path. One head, two eyes, other parts in the usual numbers and places. The reality is that the epidemic of horrors they tell us a small leak would cause didn’t happen.

In my darker moments I think that the ‘greenies’,  some of whom have gotten really rich on this loose collection of ideas, long to take us back to a simpler time and assume that they will be the lords in the manor while the rest of us become serfs, ignorant and fearful.  The wind farm folk are getting rich on our money producing power when it is not needed and despoiling our landscapes. And without lots of gas turbines running in the background the lie of this ‘renewable’ power source would be clear.  We pour ethanol into our gasoline and burn more than ever. Imagine how much happier we would all be if it had been drunk rather than burned…

Meanwhile, the climate is changing. And we play games with ourselves to come up with ways to make money on ‘slowing’ or ‘reversing’ it and finding other people to push off the costs to.  While the real issue of identifying and preparing for the changes is simply ignored in most quarters. The military and insurance companies are worrying about it. Some cities like Chicago have actually started thinking about it. Too many just pretend it is happening to someone else.

But as the world warms the differentials that drive the winds will change as will the cloud cover.  Be interesting to see how the thousands of wind turbines and solar panels do then?  And how well our supplies of burnable materials are holding out.  But one thing seems clear, the ‘greenies’ are not doing any of this for us.