Cars that burn up the roads

Two articles appeared next to each other on the front page of the WSJ on August 18: ‘US Car Plants Shift to Top Gear,’ and ‘Decade of Drought Threatens West.’

We need to connect the dots.

The manufacture of 60 million new passenger vehicles in 2012 worldwide, 99% of them burning gasoline or diesel, guarantees us more extreme weather disasters.

With rising carbon emissions making the atmosphere warmer, increasing storm surges, floods, droughts and wildfires will destroy infrastructure, water resources, homes, and jobs.

The federal government gives tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and installation of solar panels that can be used to charge them, and also requires automakers to increase energy efficiency.  This is great, but we should do more.  A carbon fee should be imposed to make purchasers of fossil fuels to pay more of the actual costs of using those products.  Taxpayers now pick up the tab for spill clean-up, disaster aid, flood insurance, crop insurance and military protection of oil shipments.

A tax on oil, coal and natural gas at the wellhead, mine or point of entry, increasing each year, up to $100 per ton, with revenue returned to households would help level the playing field and allow more profitable production of clean energy alternatives.   With a tariff on goods from other countries not imposing a carbon fee, we could also encourage worldwide adoption of clean energy.


Add pollution to cool the Earth?? No, No geoengineering

British scientists have decided not to experiment with  shading the Earth with sulfur dioxide particles, a form of geoengineering, at least not just now.


Good!  This geoengineering experiment seems like someone wrapping duct tape around their mouth to try to stop smoking. Way too risky, too many unplanned consequences, and does not deal with the problem.

Sulfur dioxide is a polluting chemical that is bad for peoples’ lungs, corrodes buildings, and makes soils and lakes more acid. We should not make our biosphere even more acid.  The excess carbon dioxide that we are adding to air by burning oil, coal and natural gas is already turning the oceans more acid and killing coral, shellfish, and tiny creatures that feed the fish we eat.

Also, the process would not solve the problem, but only mask it.  If sprinkling sulfur dioxide in air did cool the Earth, as soon as that stopped, the temperature would shoot way up.

We know that getting more energy efficient, switching to clean energy instead of burning fuel that emits warming gases, and conserving forests would halt the increasing warming of the globe.  These are the steps we need to take.  Geoengineering would give people a false sense of security and delay us from taking the measures that we know will work.

What are the odds?

‘You cannot prove that burning fossil fuel caused this heat wave.’ says our gasman.


We can, however, find correlations and calculate the odds. Which would you rather do, walk through a field of land mines where there is a 1 in 10 chance of setting off an explosion, or where there is a 1 in 300 chance of explosion?

Well, 1 in 300 is the odds we had 35 years ago of getting these deadly, crop blistering heat waves, and now the odds are 1 in 10, according to a new NASA statistical study.

Scientists began measuring and correlating the amount of carbon dioxide released by burning oil, coal and natural gas with rising temperatures sixty years ago. Now 40 different models have been created of the evidence and causes of the changing climate, and they all agree that human activities are causing the planet to overheat, with the main offender being the burning of fossil fuels. On the NASA site you can see the changing levels of CO2, global temperature, sea level, land ice and polar ice cover.

So the relevant question is not whether any single weather event is ‘caused’ by global warming, but  how the odds have changed, and how they are likely to change in the future.

An article on this report includes a slide show of 53 things that ‘Climate Change Just Might Ruin.’