Friday, October 23, 2015

It doesn't matter what Exxon knew about global warming. What matters is our response.

I see in the news a ton of reporting about what Exxon executives knew about climate change in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Liberals at The Nation charge that Exxon, it's executives and its partners conspired to hide the evidence that they already knew. Some are calling for the Department of Justice to investigate. At the Breitbart News, they're saying that Exxon was just being responsibly cautious for their shareholders.

Like many of us, I have been reading about climate change for a long, long time. I remember reading decades ago in Car and Driver Magazine that a few volcanoes have burped up more C02 than the entirety of human history. I would agree with them and I know that there are going to be more volcanoes doing the same thing. The next big one could go off in Yellowstone National Park in our lifetime. That's just how the earth works. But I also agree that we shouldn't tempt fate by adding to the problem, and at the rate we're going, we're adding to the problem.

Lately, I've been getting into lawn care and went to my local Intermountain Farmers Association store to learn more about how to care for lawns. I have a nice home and want to keep the lawn in good shape.

While talking with one of the salespeople there, we discussed the timing of lawn care. He pointed out that in years past, there would always be a hard freeze in the middle of October. He says we haven't had that for two years in a row now, and we're already into late October without a hard freeze. I'm relatively new to Utah and while talking to people who've been here for a long time, they say they can remember more than 30 years ago how there used to always be snow on the ground in the winter. Not so much anymore. The evidence is clear that the climate is changing.

Unfortunately, there are still some people who want to debate the point about whether or not it's caused by man or not. Even if much of the work was done by a few volcanoes, there are plenty of other reasons we should avoid carbon. For example, there are many reports of ocean acidification, health issues with carbon extraction in the oil, coal and gas industries. Even if the "alarmists" are wrong, why tempt fate? But they're not wrong. There is a 97% consensus of more than 12,000 published papers supported by a global scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humans.

My perspective in general has changed as a result of what I'm seeing. For example, I no longer have any desire for a sports car. I mean, how can I enjoy the car when it's farting CO2 everywhere, adding to the possibility that my girls are going to see winters in their lifetimes where there will be no snow here? Even in my little economy car, I feel a certain sense of guilt as I commute to work. I feather the pedals to conserve energy on my daily trek.

By analogy, I have a hard time understanding how salesmen and corporate executives can work in a company, any company, that sells carbon for money without losing sleep at night. How do they sleep knowing that the planet just isn't going to be the same as it was when they started? That the planet will have less snow and more superstorms near the equator? That ocean levels will rise devastating the low lying areas around the world?

Much of the prosperity we've seen up to this point has come at the cost of the climate since most of our energy is supplied by carbon in the form of coal and natural gas. That is starting to change and the pace is accelerating. I just hope it's not too little too late. While I can understand the need to seek justice and prosecute the people responsible for climate change, I think we had better keep our eyes on the ball and work towards cleaning up the planet for the next generation to enjoy.

I see the shiny new TVs every time I go to Costco. There are gizmos everywhere to distract us from while the earth heats up. Phones, tablets, video game consoles and tiny little computers for the geeks among us. How can I enjoy all these wonders without guilt? Solar power. Wind. Thorium. Conservation. Population control through education. This is how we reduce demand for the products sold by Exxon.

If we're lucky, we can avoid the runaway greenhouse process that could happen if we don't change course soon enough. We can do it. All it takes is a little bit of mindful action every day.
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