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John Mitchell, San Juan Capistrano
There can be no doubt climate change is real. One only has to look at North American glaciers—most are receding and have been doing so for many years prior to the relatively recent increase in CO2. At the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, there are markers on the walkway from the parking lot showing the location of the receding face for about the last 80 years.
Climate is clearly a cyclical phenomenon. Twelve thousand or so years ago, Chicago was under approximately 1,000 feet of ice from the glacier that carved the great lakes. Cleveland, Buffalo and New York City were, too. Boulders in Central Park were an early gift from Canada shoved there by the advancing glacier. If you know what you are looking for, the glacial moraine is visible in the drive to JFK Airport.
Vikings colonized North America in the tenth century in a place they called Greenland. They lived and survived on locally grown crops for about 500 years. Paintings in European museums clearly show colder conditions in the 16th and 17th centuries than exist today. Colder conditions forced the Vikings from Greenland.
The carbon capture and release cycle cited as a cause for climate change is a natural cycle. Carbon released by many sources is essential for plant and sea life and rock formation where it is absorbed to be recycled. In fact, increasing levels of CO2 accelerate plant growth. While humans are certainly altering the rates of both release and absorption, we are not creating or destroying carbon. The carbon inventory originated within an earlier star.
There are three essential questions pertaining to climate change: What is the percentage of human-caused climate change within a natural cycle? Is this a danger? And are there realistic and feasible objectives to reduce manmade contribution short of returning to rather brutal living conditions prior to the industrial revolution?
Answers and solutions are not aided by pejoratives such as denier and conspiracy. People who are willing to listen are forced into extreme camps—you are either a true believer or not. As in so many instances the real answer likely resides somewhere in the middle. Improving energy efficiency is good; attempting to dramatically alter the energy production mix by statute before the technology is proven and the effects clear is likely not so good.
The population of North America at the turn of the 16th century is estimated to be between 5 and 20 million, certainly living without any appreciable use of fossil fuels. Today, the population of the same approximate area is something over 400 million, largely relying on fossil fuels for energy and economic success. The energy to sustain civilization and allow poorer parts of the world to elevate living standards is likely to remain based on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.
The dream of a civilization independent of fossil fuels with current or anticipated technology would require a significant reduction in some combination of population and/or living standards. Even assuming that 50 percent of current energy needs could be replaced by sustainable sources, dramatic changes would be required to attain the objective.