I’ve been picking on Al Gore and the disciples of warming because they are the most visible face of last-century’s eco-luddite movement, however to solve the real problems everyone must realize that Al’s not the only person causing starvation and stasis in the world.
The other factors creating hunger are also incumbent with eco-luddism, global warming is just the latest stalking-horse for the real goal of making energy too expensive and scarce to use. The environmental approach of using less and conserving is laudable, but… if it’s not working now for six billion people, it will never work in 42 years when the population is 9 Billion.
When looking at the environmental movements from a distance en-masse you have to be careful or you understate the real problem and the needs; e.g. as this article seems to want to pin current hunger all on corn ethanol, and that’s not the entire case. Other articles also question the need for global policy based on the suspect data, as this article points out.
Collectively the intermeshed muddle of environmental movements have ensured that the dirtiest source of power (coal) is still the most heavily used for the past thirty years. They’ve done this by opposition to new oil and gas exploration, drilling, and refineries. They’ve done this through tax and regulation of fuel standards. They’ve done it through intense opposition and regulation of new nuclear plants, and NIMBY oppostion to large scale wind and solar farms. They’ve opposed hydro-power wherever it’s been attempted. It seems that the only power that’s good or green is that used specifically for their house, and none other.
They’ve opposed all forms of new energy but it isn’t a vast plot – instead it fits with their general blurry vision and strategy. As stated above they just muddle their way towards a low-energy world, often working at cross-purpose without understanding the ultimate evil effect. That vision and strategy is to make energy scare and expensive, in hopes of stopping environmental degradation. Instead they insure not only environmental degradation, but also hunger and poverty in third world nations, and the eventual destruction of wealth in the US.
Is it a mistake that the high-guru of Global Warming comes from a coal mining state where the coal boom is once again on and the attempts to stop it are being fought in the state Legislature? Is it a mistake that a supposedly “environmental” Senator, Ted Kennedy, opposes windmill farms in his neighborhood.
There’s no doubt that mankind contributes some to global warming, you can prove that to yourself on any windless day by driving well outside a metro area, measuring temperature, and then driving back inside and measuring temperature. Typically you will see a 1-4 degree higher temperature inside the “heat bubble” of the metro area. (Note that both readings should be aproximately the same elevation or the experiment is pointless, elevations do vary in temperature, and moderate winds will also mask urban heat bubbles.)
The policy question isn’t whether we contribute to global warming, instead it is “do we contribute enough to crush economies with carbon caps, to stifle new energy development through environmental regulation, and starve people through misguided energy policy?” Does being clean warrant people still dying in coal mines or from the pollution burning coal creates — because regardless of what the environmentalists do, the reality is that people still need energy and will get it from one source if blocked from another?
This is one reason why you hear the oxymorons “clean coal” and “carbon sequestration” so much lately. Coal is dirty no matter what you do, and the money spent cleaning it or sequestering carbon would be better spent on nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, oil, and natural gas. That doesn’t mean we can toss coal power out the window tomorrow however. If we do, millions die.
Hunger is also caused by the the well-intentioned authors and signatories of the tremendously flawed Kyoto treaty, the IPCC, and the Greenpeace eco-nihilists who have led the movement to create a low-energy world the past thirty years. The eco-warrior’s intent was clear at the beginning of the movement – one of the favorite exhibits in the ’80s at ecology fairs was a person peddling a bicycle to generate electrity.
Think about that, and then ponder how many people peddling it would take to generate 50 Petawatt hours of electricity (low end of estimated need in 2050.) Who would hold the whips and guns, who would wear the chains?
As stated ecology groups have good intentions, but those misguided intentions unalloyed by reason or mathematics lead to unintended consequences of famine, poverty, war, death, and destruction.
“We believe that the financial and safety risks associated with nuclear power are so grave that nuclear power should not be a part of any solution to address global warming. There is no need to jeopardize our health, safety, and economy with increased nuclear power when we have cleaner, cheaper solutions to reduce global warming pollution.” – June 2005 statement signed by 313 national, international, regional, and state environmental organizations, including Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth.
The largest problem facing us this century is simple, it doesn’t take computer models and projections to see it once you know the factors. The factors leading to the greatest challenge of this century are demonstrable in reports and data we collect already. While some might argue they won’t be able to factually refute these arguments. The real problem is not scarcity of resource as laid out in the original computer-model call to action by the Club of Rome, nor is it global warming, or even the global war on terror — instead it’s scarcity of energy.
Where energy is abundant birthrates are lower, infant mortality is lower, life expectancy, wealth, and literacy are generally higher, and looked at as a holistic system the environment is generally cleaner as well (With local exceptions where coal power is used. I grew up in one of those areas, Fairbanks, Alaska, where the snowbanks by the power plant were always black within a day or two of the snowfall. To get away from black to grey-tinged snow you had to drive miles and miles away.)
Where low-energy societies exist, life is short, hunger is common, water and air are dirty, and infant mortality is appallingly high. If you’ve ever been even near a large refugee camp or large city ghetto where meals are prepared over fires and sewage goes unprocessed you will not argue with me about the environmental degradation caused by low-energy lifestyle. Another example: everywhere energy is used abundantly life expectancy is longer — if the pollution from using high amounts of energy is so terrible then why the heck are people living so long in those areas where energy is plentiful ?
photo credit: Ruiz Mercado
Wood smoke contains over 100 different chemicals and compounds, including
- carbon monoxide
- butyl aldehyde
- substituted furans
- acetic acid
- formic acid
- nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2)
- sulfur dioxide
- methyl chloride
- oxygenated monoaromatics
- guaiacol (and derivatives)
- phenol (and derivatives)
- syringol (and derivatives)
- catechol (and derivatives)
- particulate organic carbon
- polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- Na, Mg, Al, Si, S, Cl, K, Ca, Ti, V, +Cr, +Mn, Fe, +Ni
- Cu, Zn, Br, +Pb
- particulate elemental carbon
- normal alkanes (C24-C30)
- cyclic di/triterpenoids
- dehydroabietic acid
- isopimaric acid
- chlorinated dioxins
Almost half the population of the world lives without clean drinking water, without waste water treatment and sanitation.
It takes huge amounts of energy to provide clean cooking for millions, and it takes even greater amounts to correctly process the resultant garbage and sewer. It’s an engineering challenge on a grand but ugly scale if you want clean water, sewer, and cooking for everyone on the planet. However it’s one that not only should get done, it must get done.
It also takes an amazing amount of energy to grow food for those people, and the green revolution ushered in by the agricultural scientists like Norman Borlaug is no longer enough to feed the world without abundant cheap energy to aid the processes.
Energy adds to the cost of food at every step, from the fuel in the tractors and combines, to the irrigation pump’s gas, to the high-nitrate fertilizer and the trucks that transport it, it’s an energy intensive operation. If you farm with pesticides and fertilizer, then additional care must be take to clean the run-off water, and that takes energy too.
All that, and so far you still haven’t processed the crop, packaged it, or hauled it to market, which also takes fuel. If you have surplus crops, then they must be frozen, canned, bagged, or stored … which also takes energy and infrastructure. I’ll remind you that infrastructure is cheap when energy is abundant, it becomes more expensive as Energy prices increase.
The eco-luddites have taxed, regulated, blocked new sources, and created mad carbon cap schemes that have driven energy costs so high that it’s becoming unprofitable to farm for food. It’s become pricey to store and transport the food aid agencies need. It’s become impossible to keep the surplus of food stocked and that’s why banked food supplies have fallen steadily the past six years in the face of rising price.
Demand for food is not only rising, but demand for energy is also on the rise to cope with our dense populations, here’s one of the key findings from an IAASTD report:
5. Projections based on a continuation of current policies and practices indicate that global demographic changes and changing patterns of income distribution over the next 50 years will lead to different patterns of food consumption and increased demand for food. In the reference run, global cereal demand is projected to increase by 75% between 2000 and 2050 and global meat demand is expected to double. More than three-fourths of growth in demand in both cereals and meat is projected to be in developing countries. Projections indicate a probable tightening of world food markets with increasing resource scarcity adversely affecting poor consumers and poor producers. Overall, current terms of trade and policies, and growing water and land scarcity, coupled with projected changes in climate is projected to constrain growth in food production.
Don’t despair yet: given abundant energy all things are possible, and the means to abundant clean energy exist already.
As this graph from the IAASTD shows, food is not a problem granted sufficient cheap energy with modern agricultural technique.
Ecology group favored means of clean power are insufficient to the task by themselves. Jerry Pournelle did this same math back in the ’80s in a series of articles that examined all of the proposed means and he reached the same conclusion. People are discovering what Jerry knew in the 80’s, and starting to do the math again, as can be seen in this article:
Drawing power directly from sunlight raises fewer environmental objections than does power from wind. But the biggest objection the massive quantities of land needed for large-scale solar development remains. Solar energy output large enough to displace our current consumption of fossil fuel might easily require 53,000 square miles of land in the desert Southwest – about 6 percent of the combined land area of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas.
If in theory Solar fights global warming, is anyone calculating in the heat rise that will occur from the darkened albedo caused by large extents of land coated with dark solar panels? Can we reverse that by making our roads “white top” instead of “black-top”? What type of energy will it take to do that?
To plug the gap even if all renewable and clean sources are used, the world must still have plentiful nuclear energy, it’s the stop-gap until we achieve the next-century energy platforms needed (Fusion, Solar Power Satellites, improved geo-thermal, solar, hydro, wind.)
E.G. We could carpet the entire Southwest with Solar panels and still not have enough energy, for by 2050 the earth will team with an estimated 9 Billion humans, and energy demand is posited to be between 50-70 Petwatt Hours (the higher end of the estimate posits a world-wide hydogen-fueled transport fleet supplied by electrolyzing water for fuel.) That’s a lot of power, but it is achievable with a commitment to roll all forms of new energy into their niches post-haste, coupled with a Manhattan-style project to get new nuclear energy plants built in abundance now, not tomorrow.
Why should we do it? That answer is easy – so our children and grandchildren won’t be miserable. So millions or billions won’t die of starvation, so we won’t be a lone island of wealth in a sea of miserable poverty. So we can not only survive, but as Jerry Pournelle stated so we can survive with style, without guilt. In high-energy countries forest, city, and croplands achieve equilibrium as they have here in the US and Europe. In Low energy countries, forests continue to shrink. The more industrialized the US became, the more forest grew back after the massive log-off of the pre-industrial expansion of the country. (In the early part of the century we had a lot less forest than we do now.)
Historic index of millions of acres under forest in US
Low energy, scarce energy, is first factor of a formula leading to deaths of billions of people over the next century. So here’s a simple mantra even leftists can understand: Low Energy Kills Billions. It will not only kill billions, low-energy will destroy the very environment the eco-luddites hope to protect.
What happens to forests when five billion or more people need wood to cook every night? What happens to flora and fauna in low energy countries where people must forage to survive? What happens to rivers and streams with the sewage of five billion humans entering them untreated? What will the air be like with billions of cooking fires?
Eco-luddism has potential to wipe billions of humans off the face of the planet while destroying the environment they purport to protect. I”ve been pointing that out for more than a couple decades. In the old days it was in discussions and arguments with people over bio-mass vs nuclear in the alt-science and sci-energy newsgroups on the usenet, and the past two years it has been here. I’ll be continuing this series of articles until such time as people begin to grasp and act on the real problem and not bogeymen designed to make people feel good while others die.
I ask that you gentle reader help me out with this. When you ask your ecology-minded friends these hard questions, do so kindly. The mission here is to convince, not confront – this stuff’s too important to fight over, so keep in mind always that their intentions are good but sincerely misguided.