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New Times / Commentary

The following article was posted on February 19th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 30

Unwarranted solutions

Climate concern has made positive changes"but we don't need alarmism

BY CHARLEE SMITH

The Atascadero City Council has upset many left-leaning SLO residents, with some saying the city will have the same stigma as Dayton, Tenn., where the Scopes Monkey Trial took place. They accuse the city of “gutting,” “weakening,” “stripping,” and “censoring” the Climate Action Plan (CAP) that is mandated by the state of California. A closer look tells a different story.

Cities are required by AB 32 to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15 percent. Atascadero’s “weakened” CAP cuts them by 22 percent. Language that manmade GHGs contribute to climate change remains in the CAP. This is the fact supported by 97 percent of climate scientists. Far fewer of these scientists will notarize statements such as “temperatures will increase by 4 degrees to 8 degrees F this century.” This is a prediction, not a fact, and is typical of what the City Council removed. The CAP that was passed on Jan. 28 will be just as effective as its original alarmist version.

After the onslaught of hurricanes during 2005, climate scientists predicted an increased occurrence of Atlantic hurricanes due to global warming. After a period of inactivity, they changed that to fewer but more powerful hurricanes. Last year, they predicted between seven to 11, with between three to five being major Category 3 to 5 hurricanes. Even when given a chance to adjust their prediction last August, they only reduced it by one hurricane. When last year’s season ended, there had been only two hurricanes, both Category 1. For the first time, the United States has gone eight years without a Category 3 hurricane making landfall.

What about Hurricane Sandy in 2012, you say? At its maximum, Sandy was a Category 2 storm and was Category 1 when it reached the East Coast. The fact that it merged with a separate large low pressure system was the reason for the storm surge that did all the destruction. It had nothing to do with global warming.

Speaking of rising sea levels, it is a fact that the oceans levels are rising at an average rate of 3 mm year worldwide. But if you look at the global map made from satellite data from 1995 to 2009, you will find that the entire Pacific coastline from Peru to Alaska had an average 1 mm per year decrease in sea level. It seems that California residents may have nothing to fear from the greatest threat of global warming: rising sea levels. Maybe plate tectonics is actually raising our homeland and saving us?

Climate alarmists will tell stories of larger and more destructive storms, but how do they measure this? In dollars of damage and lives lost. Since 1900, the population of the planet has gone from around 1 billion to more than 6 billion people. $1,000 in 1900 is worth more than $27,000 today. It’s deceitful to compare a storm that occurred in 1900 to one in 2012 using this criteria.

Since 1895, the average temperature in the United States and the world has increased by 1.4 degrees F at an average rate of 0.13 degrees F per decade. There is no denying this. But I can’t help being a skeptic about its significance. When you look at the latest climate data and the results of an extensive climate study completed in April of last year, you’ll find that the late 1800s were colder than any period in the previous 2,000 years, and this is the point from which climate change is being gauged. The Middle Ages, around the year 700, were just as warm as today. From 1917 to 1934, temperatures increased at a rate of 0.99 degrees F per decade, then decreased at a rate of 0.24 degrees F per decade until 1979. From 1998 to 2013, temperatures decreased at a rate of 0.38 degrees F per decade. These are facts that climate activists would prefer you didn’t see.

Concern about our climate has created very positive results. The elimination of the Hummer as a status symbol for personal transport is one, along with the increased focus on solar power where it is adaptable. The vast reductions in the real pollutants that we put into our air and water is another. Claims that carbon dioxide output results in unhealthy air, however, go too far. Virtually no one will get sick from, or tell the difference between, air that has 350 ppm or 550 ppm CO2. The federal occupational limit is air with 5,000 ppm CO2. Of course, activists, when they can, will usually add the claim “it will result in cleaner air” to any proposal they make in order to grease the legislative process.

Great strides have been made in increasing our energy efficiency, and it is improving every day without draconian government intervention. Some additional federal regulations are necessary to keep us focused, but radical legislation like the Climate Protection Act of 2013, co-sponsored by our own Sen. Barbara Boxer, is one reason I stay active in the climate debate. It is still pending, and is an unwarranted solution. It will significantly increase the cost of travel and freight, and reward those who sit behind computers all day while punishing workers that rely on a pickup truck to make a living.

Since we have Diablo Canyon, a very high proportion of SLO County’s GHG emissions (nearly 70 percent) comes from transportation sources. This fact makes it much easier for individuals to make a difference locally by making fuel efficiency their top priority in the purchase of a vehicle over the next six years. With the current advances in hybrid and diesel technology, this doesn’t mean you’re forced to buy a mini-car. My eco-goal is to convince my conservative friends to spend less on gas and get over their unwarranted hatred of hybrid cars, which are a logical solution.

 

Charlee Smith lives in Templeton. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.