Shane Brown, my old friend from the early days of The Atomic Show, send me a link yesterday evening to a comic titled Climate Change. When Shane recommends that I read something, I generally follow his advice. I hope you will as well; this comic is quite good, gently opinionated and thought provoking.
Here is the comment that I added to the growing thread at Darryl Cunningham’s site.
Darryl – excellent work.
I find the whole controversy sadly amusing – sad because the effects are so important, amusing because of the contortions of thinking that happen.
One of the contortions comes to play when deniers talk about all of the money that might come into play if carbon trading takes off or if renewable energy mandates get passed. They also imply that climate scientists have sold their souls for research grants.
They completely ignore the amount of money already controlled by industries that together dump about 30 billion tons of waste products into the atmosphere every year without charge. It is hard to get one’s mind around the huge numbers involved – ExxonMobil, a company that controls just 3-4% of the global market for hydrocarbons, sold $440 BILLION worth of product last year and made more than $40 billion in after tax, after generous depletion allowance PROFIT. (The company’s free cash flow was more than $100 billion.) That is only one of many sources of funds for anyone willing to produce research that denies reality.
I was also amused to see a comment from a geologist who criticized your work and called into question the whole field of climate science. While I am reluctant to denigrate an entire branch of science, I’d like to point out that more than 80% of the professional geologists in the world make their living by providing information to the coal, oil and gas extraction industries.
Some geologists may study rocks and sediment because those topics fascinate them; most of them study rocks and sediment in order to find the valuable products that their employers sell into the world fossil fuel market.
It is also worth thinking about the role of the advertiser supported media in shaping public opinion. How many ads do you think you see on a weekly basis from BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and minors like Citgo, Hess, Valero, etc.?
Why do you think you need to turn to a publication like the New Yorker to find a good, penetrating article about the role of fossil fuel money in the climate change discussion? Though the ads that the petroleum industry runs do not deny climate change directly, I am certain that the money they spend has the ability to make journalists reluctant to do hard hitting exposes on their activities in supporting deniers and skeptics.
Finally, the other thing that sadly amuses me is that there is a capable, abundant, affordable emission-free alternative to burning coal, oil and natural gas. Nuclear energy has proven itself in the most challenging energy applications as a better than oil source of heat.
That energy source really complicates the discussion since many of the people who are reflexively opposed to big oil, coal and gas try to put nuclear energy into the same category. It really confuses them to realize that the science supports the reality that fission is safe, clean and cheap – if you do not let fossil fuel inspired regulators make it too hard and too expensive. It is really amusing to see how some people on the left think that Amory Lovins is on their side when he tries to tell us that all we need is conservation, wind and solar. None of those sources has any hope of harming the market power of the fossil fuel industry or making a dent in the amount of CO2 dumped each year.
Nuclear fission, on the other hand, already makes a difference and could make a huge difference if some of the restrictions were lifted.
As an example of the amusing political alignments that the climate change controversy is producing, I recommend reading Budget Hawks Oppose Nuclear Loan Guarantees. Most of the “nukes” I know classify themselves as conservatives and claim that the liberal Democratic party has been source of much of the antinuclear activism that has been prevalent in the United States for the past 40 years.
However, my theory is that the effective opposition does not come from the vocal critics, but from those who verbally claim to be friendly to the industry. Instead of offering an effective loan guarantee program as a helping hand up that does not cost anything – as long as the government does not make it too hard to build – conservative budget hawks are fighting expansion of nuclear project loan guarantees by citing an out-of-date (2003) CBO assumption of the amount of risk associated with the potential default.
The biggest financial beneficiaries of actions that slow nuclear energy development are the people who are involved in the business of selling competitive fuel sources. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of evidence that links those same funding sources to the vocally conservative budget hawks – who also fight charging fees on emissions as a way to help balance the budget.