It’s critical we move away from fossil fuels

November 9, 2017

I've been biding my time for quite a spell as the debate rages in this newspaper concerning climate change. Well, Mr. Bowman's letter finally has prompted me to respond. First off, when folks ask me, Do I believe in climate change? I usually respond back by asking them specifically what are they referring to. I generally get many different answers, most being muddled and confusing. I studied climate and weather modelling back in the late '70s at Drexel University as an engineering student, and although the technology and knowledge in these areas have expanded significantly since then, the basic parameters of what these models are, how do they work, and how accurately they predict short- and long-term trends haven't changed much, based on the research I have done since then. So in a nutshell here is what I believe concerning this topic: 1) Do I believe the Earth's climate is changing? Yes, without a doubt. This can be proven in many ways, and this process has been happening pretty much continuously since the Earth developed a true global climate a few billion years ago.

2) Is the Earth's climate undergoing a warming trend? There is some debate about this, but the preponderance of data collected over 50-plus years seems to indicate yes, although the long-term trends are not fully agreed-upon.

3) Does human life on Earth contribute to climate change? Yes, without a doubt. Each human being actually has a micro-influence on the climate by simple respiration.

4) How much does human activity contribute to the negative impacts of climate change? Well now here is the question people should actually be asking. It's pretty safe to assume that the actual answer circa 2017 is between 1 percent and 99 percent. Where the scientific debate comes from is what is the actual range. If it were determined the answer was less than 10 percent, then most of the draconian measures being discussed by some organizations would make no sense. If it were actually 90 percent or greater, then such measures are urgently needed. The true scientific debate is really about this question.

5) How accurate are climate change models? To answer that question folks need to understand what climate models are and how they work. The quick answer is climate models are complicated computer programs with multiple algorithms and many input parameters. As you can quickly tell from hurricane tracking models, some models work better than others under certain conditions. The farther out in time you go, the larger the margin of error is. It could very well be that the consensus climate models are correct about the short- and long-term trends of climate change. But it is a topic that should and must be researched and debated.

6) Did climate change cause the recent hurricanes and fires? Meteorologists unfortunately only have about 150 years of weather data to work with, and much of that is sketchy at best. The general consensus seems to be that from private weather companies, whose very survival requires accurate short- and long-term weather forecasting, current global climate conditions interact and/or cause extreme weather events only indirectly at best. The scarcity of or plethora of hurricanes and other weather events from year-to-year do not either directly prove or disprove general climate trends. The best way for me to answer this questions is to say that climate change is no more directly responsible for the recent weather trends we have seen, than it was for the relatively docile hurricane seasons of the past 10 years. Folks who react in a knee-jerk way to individual weather occurrences to prove their own orthodoxy are to be ignored, in my opinion, and that applies to both sides. As far as Mr. Bowman's comment about the luxury of debating this issue, history is full of unfortunate examples where politics and science are mixed together, usually with the result being the shutdown of scientific inquiry and discovery. No. Mr. Bowman, inquiry and debate must continue. Ironically, given that there is a limited amount of fossil fuels remaining to be discovered and utilized, future civilizations will have to rely on renewable sources of energy. I can't find anyone who disagrees with that. This is something we should all be able to get together on. However, I find the left's propensity to try to shut down debate and demonize those who disagree with their orthodoxy quite despicable, to tell you the truth. Some like Don Flood even resort to smear words such as "denier" (instead of "skeptic"), which I have called him out on once before. It is indeed critical to the future generations that we quickly begin to move away from fossil fuels (and toward renewable energy sources), as well as to better understand how different forms of human activity can (and do) affect the natural climate cycles of the earth. It is equally important that those who would try to shut down such research and scientific debate over this issue be shown for what they really are.

Brian Gillespie

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