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  Global Warming  
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----- Original Message -----

From: Steven

To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND

Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 2:31 PM

Subject: Global Warming

 

Doctor Thomas and Doctor Margo,   :-)

 

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita compel me to comment. 

 

I like to listen to NPR Science Friday with Ira Flato.  (Ira does what I was trained to do in my Journalism graduate program, science reporting.)  Today's show was all about hurricanes and what scientists understand about hurricanes.  It looks like Rita could cause huge property damage in the Gulf Coast from flooding and storm surge, not unlike Katrina.  And it also looks like we will be in for more future category 4 and 5 storms still to come.

 

After listening to the show, my thoughts turn to the need for citizens and government alike to re-examine certain public-policy issues: energy policy, emergency preparedness policy, residential, commercial, and industrial development policy in high risk areas, and our national priorities in general.

 

Two researchers spoke of their studies that discovered a doubling of category 4 and 5 hurricanes, world wide, in recent years due to global warming.  They did not comment on possible causes of global warming.  Global warming is a hot button issue in politics, but the fact that it is happening seems to be generally accepted in the sciences.  I'm sure there are books out about how global warming is a big hoax.  I guess we all have to figure out who we're going to trust.  Anyway...this warming trend is so extremely rapid, in geologic time, that I cannot imagine any other cause than the corresponding spike in greenhouse gases.  And a spike in global greenhouse gasses does tie directly to the Energy Policy of the United States.  We are not alone, but we are the top producer.

 

There is a possibility that flooding from Rita will further damage the oil refineries on the Gulf Coast.  Katrina hit them once.  Now Rita may hit them again.  We need an Energy Policy that is less vulnerable to global chaos and natural disaster.  I lived through the oil crisis in 1973.  At that time, Jimmy Carter attempted to lead the nation in the direction of energy conservation and developing alternative energy sources, but those moves were eliminated by the following administration.  Americans don't like to discipline themselves when there is no immediate pain.

 

The culture of me, me, me, more is better, and even weird tax incentives, has given us a nation full of SUVs and hulky pickup trucks.  This has been a prime factor in our unprecedented level of greedy oil consumption as a nation and today's pain at the pump.

 

The hurricane experts on today's show predict more damaging hurricanes over the next 20 to 30 years.  Large scale changes are being forced upon the United States of America.  Our national priorities much adapt and change.  Maybe it's time for us to join the rest of the world in its effort to reduce greenhouse gasses.  Maybe the federal government ought to impose the kind of limits that we need for our own good, because it cannot be done on a piecemeal or local basis.  Maybe the power of "market forces" is not adequate to do the right thing.

 

There is more pain to come.  It would be good if we could not only learn lessons, but remember them.  I do not say that human are adequately equipped to solve all their problems.  But there is no excuse for failing to use the God given intelligence that we do have.

 

Your thoughts?

 

Best regards,

 

Steven

 

 

 

9/25/2005 

 

Dear Steven,

 

Your comments on the connection between greenhouse gasses, global warming, and the increased violence of the storms we have experienced of late certainly seems plausible to me.  The detractors to this theory, typically from the free-market conservative side, believe that these two issues are unrelated, that there have been bad storms in the past, and periods of time when the global temperature was hotter than it is now (e.g. 2° hotter at the time of Christ).  Thus, since the current weather phenomenon is not unprecedented, the doubter’s position is plausible.

 

I believe there are a few factors in play here:  1) as you mentioned, we are a selfish people, not wanting to sacrifice anything for our inconvenience.  2) The Kyoto treaty has the potential of turning us into a significantly poorer nation.  As I understand it, big polluters like China and other developing countries, would not have the same restrictions as America.  This would put them at a significant price/trading advantage (such as we already see with China because of GATT, but  even more accentuated by the restrictions placed on us that they would not ).  The Kyoto protocol would allow them to go through the same developmental cycle as we have gone through, and then they would have to go through the transformation into conservation and alternative fuels etc.  It would give them an advantage in terms of trade, it would cripple our economy even further, and their increased usage/pollution would neutralize our conservation.  Thus, only a social/political agenda would be served without solving the supposed underlying global problem of greenhouse gas and heat retention and its attendant climate change.

 

The concern that the conservative movement has is that the environmentalist agenda is a communist plot.  Yes, a plot to reduce our power that would put us under the tyranny of obedience to an eco-god that would reduce our world stature and autonomy and put us under the authority of a Euro-Asian world government.  In other words, it has the potential of making us a minor power, subject to the dictates of other world powers in a global economy, part of a communal global village where we are not sovereign, and the moral dictates of other countries govern our lifestyle, morality, worship, economy, lifestyle, policy, and values.  It would probably be good for the American public to reign in our materialism and excesses.  But, to imagine that a godless communistic-globalist worldview would implement the most excellent method of transformation and regulation of social conduct seems unlikely.

 

I think the Left is less sensitive to this consideration of the social/moral implications of globalization because I think in general the Left would agree with the adoption of these collateral social changes which are the possibly unintended side-effects of Kyoto.  Thus, the Christian/conservative community has rebelled against Kyoto and the environmentalist agenda because of its social/values implications.

 

I personally believe the conservative/Christian community should be in the forefront of environmentalist advocacy.  I can only attribute the usurpation of the environmentalist agenda by the Left to a bizarre twist of satanic seduction.  The Christian community should be the most eco-conscious, Earth friendly, conserve the planet in the honor of the Lord group on the globe. 

 

Are the current bad weather events the result of man's intervention or a natural cycle of nature?  Personally, I think it is possible that global warming could be the result of man and greenhouse gasses, but, I am reluctant to place this theory on the level of scientific fact.  Many scientists have lined up behind it, but there is not yet unequivocal data behind us to remove all doubt about the possibility that our current weather changes are due to the natural cycles of nature.  Time will reveal that, and I certainly hope the results are not catastrophic, although they could be.

 

Regardless of whether global warming is true or not, we should be converting our energy use to alternative fuels.  Pollution, dependence on foreign supplies, the diversion of oil revenues to terrorist/jihadist groups, and the limited supplies of petrochemical energy all argue for changing our energy source.  And, since all energy used on the earth is ultimately solar power, we should pursue methods of energy collection and storage that are as close to the source as possible to reduce the losses. 

 

The currently available alternative energy generating technologies include: wind, biomass, photovoltaic, tidal, geothermal, and hydrogen generating bacteria.  Hydrogen energy could be the medium by which we store and transport energy for many applications.  None of the alternative technologies are sufficiently mature to complete on the basis of cost.  Thus, the market will not usually choose to implement such a program unless another intangible or hidden cost is solved by the new technology. 

 

The proponents of the wisdom of the Free Market argue that government expenditures and mandates to action produce suboptimal allocation of resources.  They believe that the private sector can and will make the best decisions.  Nevertheless, government can function as the test bed, the laboratory of practicality and economy, and implementation on a small scale by government fiat serves the purpose of establishing nuclei of installed capacity, or simply as models for private investment.  In the case of Hydrogen powered autos, the problem is the magnitude of the nucleus needed to create a self sustaining system of generation, distribution, and use.  Unless an overwhelming necessity dictates transition to a new energy medium, we will continue using fossil fuels until the price structure provides a significant differential in favor of alternative fuels.

 

The advocates of laisse faire capitalism and the Free Market declare that the market will make the best decisions, allocating resources to the most economical and efficient implementation.  The government control advocates declare that the market is a blunt instrument and that emerging technologies do not have the strength to penetrate existing established markets.  Old technologies are held in place by the need to survive of the workers in that industry, by habit and inertia, by political and legislative advantage, and most importantly by the installed infrastructure that supports its continued utilization.  Thus, to convert to a new technology in any area of science, technology, commerce, production... is to confront the huge momentum of implementation on many levels.  And, typically, government (which is essentially just a large committee which often decides in favor of mediocrity) will choose poorly in the solution it implements by force.  The imposition of a market direction or cost structure can create huge unintended consequences in terms of shortages, price fluctuations, and resource allocation vs. demand.  In other words, we must be very careful about trying to direct the economy too strongly by the intention of government.  Government operates most poorly in the vacuum of prejudice and the quagmire of favors and inbred ideas and isolated legislative culture.  Government should be the titular head of the people’s will, and it should be the focus of moral debate so that the lower drives of the masses do not vote themselves bread and circuses.

 

I believe there is a proper balance between government intervention and market forces.  I think government should lobby the people to follow willingly as they create a vision rather than simply imposing directives.  The best leaders inspire self-directed movement toward a goal.

 

So, should we impose alternative fuels on America?  I think that the governmental leaders should be pushing very hard in terms of creating a vision of an era of new energy.  I do not think we need to sacrifice in terms of utilization of our current energy consumption other than to meet our personal budget limitations.  On a macro-level, as a nation we need to establish a vision of what we want for our future energy implementation.  Government should be a friend to the advancement of technology.  As a nation/world, we should be unified in our expectation of a new era of energy production and usage.

 

I do not think that conservation, e.g. high mileage cars, is the solution to our problem.  It is good for the individual, it reduces the amount of pollution present in the skies to a degree, but it only delays the inevitable.  Eventually the population will double and triple… (both at home and around the world), which will simply put us in the place of emitting the same pollution as before the conservation, and with sufficient population increase, it will be even worse.  Conservation on the part of the individual, to reduce expenses makes sense, but on the macro-level it will solve nothing on a curative level.  Conservation sounds good, and on some levels it is excellent, but it does not deal with the fundamental problem.  As such, conservation is a suppressive solution that will require an even more severe and painful healing crisis later.  

 

The ordinary solution to economic problems is to simply allow the energy prices to rise to the point where we implement a new energy solution because it is economical.  And, allowing this progression of events would be fine if it were not for the possible confounding factor of Global Warming and the potentially catastrophic side effects we may feel unless we take preventive action.

 

If we implement Kyoto, and let China et al continue to pollute, we will be crippled economically by the added cost of meeting regulations which are not actually curative.  Thus, the problem will not be solved; and we will have fewer resources available to actually solve the problem because our economy will be brought down to mediocrity.

 

We now have power and influence over the world culture because we have a huge economy, military, and the world’s standard of currency.  If we wait, if we submit to economy-crippling treaties, we may sink to a place of impotence on the world stage, and simply be subjects to powers greater than ourselves.  Thus, while we still have power and influence over the world, it is time we took a leadership position in creating a truly sustainable energy policy.  Such is the appropriate place of leadership of a Christian nation, to lead the world in righteous policy. 

 

The major method of implementation of governmental leadership should be through the promotion of righteous ideas in the media.  Governmental imposition of directives requires eternal support since such initiatives have only a one-dimensional mandate, not the broad cultural support needed for an economy driven by desire and satisfaction of that desire.  But, when an idea is promoted to the point of creating an inner fire in the heart of the national will and its economy, that desire will support the manifestation of the dream itself.  Thus, as the public debate matures, as the culture adopts new ideas, the leaders can facilitate manifestation of those dreams by establishing righteous legislation to shape behavior which limits waste, and encourages the best implementation of the idea.

 

We have already planted some seeds in terms of alternative energy research; this should be nurtured and brought to maturity.  We have given some consideration in terms of taxes for new energy implementations.  We should insure that as a government we remove any kind of legislative favor that would provide market incentive to old energy implementations.  Above all, government can use its own access to the media to enhance the awareness of the possibilities of alternative energy.  By creating a common expectation, removing legal/legislative barriers to introducing new energy sources into the competitive arena, diminishment of favored industry status to old energy, we may be able to create an alternative energy future without the draconian side effects of Kyoto-type conservation programs.

 

Note: I have written extensively on the topic of “Nation Building” using the establishment of an alternative energy infrastructure from the ground up in developing countries.  http://www.doctorsenator.com/RoadmaptoaNewERA.html

 

In this vision, I focus on an implementation of a de novo alternative infrastructure in a developing country.  But, being realistic, we should establish our own alternative energy infrastructure here first.  But, we have not yet made it a priority, so as a nation we are not making that decision to implement that vision.  The job of leaders is to lead the national vision, and implement it when sufficient popular support is present.  (Note: sometimes executive action is needed to simply deal with emergency situations, such as mobilization to action in times of crisis even before the public has come to the recognition of the right course, e.g. flood, attack, epidemic...) 

 

Representative Democracy is a two sided system that balances the excesses and weaknesses of the other.  The people represent themselves and their interests through the democratic process of polls, votes, and public opinion.  And the leadership of government attempts to impose their concepts of correct policy on the public.  The two should work together. 

 

The people should be aware of public policy, and have easy access to give feedback about government action (e.g. through the internet, and a continual referendum on policy, market expression, polls, editorials, activism, and marches/demonstrations, etc.).  The government should always consider the public opinion and integrate the public values to the extent that such values are of high caliber.  The will of the masses can be very low, self-serving, long-term destructive, and morally wrong, thus ideally the tyranny of the majority is moderated by the meritocracy of the representative government.

 

Government's job is to take righteous action as the purchasing agents for the people, to function as the leader/advocates and legislators for right policy and law in various areas of public action/policy, and group/individual behavior.  Government is accountable to the people at the ballot box.  But, the people can retaliate and sabotage the implementation of new laws and initiatives when their hearts are heavy and uninspired.  Government depends on the willing cooperation of the people since it has only limited ability to force compliance.  In other words, government should legislate only what the people already really want.  Government should only apply a small increment of encouragement or force to push the public into the behaviors mandated by law.

 

Should government be involved now in leading the world in the R&D/implementation of a new energy infrastructure?  Absolutely.  Should it be imposed on us by a foreign treaty?  I don't think so.  Should we be involved in an intense national debate about energy?  As a government representing the best interests of the people, should we be promoting research into new energy generation and storage options?  Yes.  Are we doing this?  To some extent, but being realistic, the governmental-industrial complex probably favors the current fossil/nuclear implementation too heavily. 

 

But, if we had a national will to transition to a new energy infrastructure, government could structure the tax codes to provide incentives for capitalization in new directions that the market found most cost effective.  Of course, such initiatives would probably be opposed heavily by the current energy establishment.  This government-industrial complex interdependence may be a major factor in the maintenance of the current system.  And of course, the undue influence of industry on government has been one of the major stimuli to pass truly meaningful campaign reform legislation.  But as usual, the actual effect of limiting campaign contributions has probably been to leave the incumbents almost invulnerable. Few challengers can accumulate the resources to overthrow an incumbent when the contributions allowed are so small.  Thus, the incumbents remain subject to the unrelenting pressure of industry lobbyists, and many succumb to their drumbeat of indoctrination.

 

As a nation, we can make the development of a new energy paradigm a priority.  Such a change of idea/concept requires no investment or sacrifice.  It requires only a change of mind.  When the leadership is enrolled in creating this new vision, the government-media complex has the power to refocus the national attention on the development of new energy.  The tools for shaping public opinion are well known.  I am reluctant to mandate the content of the news.  A self-censored media run by men of principle can discriminate between sensationalism, and issues of substance.  The government need not impose its will on the media; elected officials can focus the public attention by simply choosing to make the implementation of alternative energy a priority.

 

There are no easy solutions.  But, I do not believe Kyoto and conservation is the most excellent option.  At the very best they simply perpetuate the current system for a longer period.  Eventually oil, a limited resource, will deplete, prices will rise, and then new energies will become more cost-competitive.  I do believe research and promotion of new technologies has the best possibility of creating the new world that we all want. 

 

Life is a journey, not just a destination, thus, in the process of creating a new energy solution, we should use the opportunity of this challenge to implement our highest values of relationship.  In particular, the national leadership should lobby for change. We the people should respond with a willingness to bear the inconvenience and expense of the massive transition to a new way of powering our industrial engine. 

 

We have two choices, 1) wait until we are forced to make the transition by shortages, or God forbid, by the terrors of global warming, or 2) Endure the great sacrifice associated with a preemptive implementation with only the knowledge, but no direct experience, of a future disaster.  Such an enterprise will require that we relate to each other well, in a good and Godly way.  Otherwise, I fear we will impose suboptimal solutions upon ourselves out of our internal lust for greed, sloth, or power.

 

And, as always, I believe a nation of people relating as True Christians will do the best job possible in implementing this process of relationship, negotiation, promotion, implementation, service and sacrifice as necessary to create the best solution.

 

Thomas

 

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