Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Climate Fix"

My friend, Roger Pielke, Jr., has written a fresh and much-need look at the politics and related issues surrounding climate change -- both natural (the climate is always changing) and man-made.

Global warming/climate change is a significant issue for our world but an extraordinarily difficult topic for the average person to understand. Anything that clarifies the issue in a non-technical manner is a most welcome addition to the discussion.

The Climate Fix is an outstanding, balanced view of the entire issue of mankind's effects on the atmosphere and its consequences.  Roger is the son of meteorologist and climate expert Roger Pielke, Sr. and has learned a lot of atmospheric science through osmosis. His full-time job is a policy researcher at the University of Colorado.

Fix takes us through the history of the global warming hypothesis and the politics surrounding it. He lightly touches on the science but Fix is not a “science book” (i.e., there is nothing technical or difficult for the non-scientist to grasp).

The first chapter is a “dinner table” conversation about climate change, both natural and human-induced, and the politics pertaining to both. From there, the book takes us a logical and interesting discussion of how climate politics play out around the world, the technologies available for decarbonization, and his recommendations as to where we go from here.

Roger accurately explains in Chapter 7 that there is no current evidence that carbon levels in the atmosphere are making storms worse, a position that I completely agree with (that it not to say such evidence may emerge in the future). That said, Roger is a strong proponent of decarbonization but not for sole concern of global warming. Roger points out that 1.5 billion of the world’s people have no practical access to electricity that keeps their standard of living insufficient. By bringing electricity to these we will have to mine carbon (i.e., coal, oil, natural gas) at an unsustainable rate.

Those who have read this blog for a while know that I believe that condemning the third world to poverty due to previously proposed decarbonization schemes (Kyoto, the original proposed agreement in Copenhagen) is immoral.

The solution, according to Roger, is a rapid and major R&D program in energy development and innovation (i.e., new sources of energy). The "fix" is to create a source of energy that is less expensive, per unit of energy, than coal (the least expensive "conventional" energy source). This is an elegant concept. I agree with Roger, although I am more of a proponent of the new generation of nuclear energy than Roger seems to be. I also believe decarbonization is desirable because of the need to preserve natural gas, oil, etc., as chemical feedstocks for future generations (i.e., there is currently no practical way to make plastic-based materials without those as raw materials).

For anyone who wishes to learn about the genuine concerns and solutions pertaining to increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere will benefit from reading The Climate Fix. I highly recommend it.

Roger's blog is here.

For Midwest readers, there is an event at Purdue University featuring Roger, Judy Curry (esteemed climate scientist), and Andy Revkin (climates science journalist) at Purdue University on November 3. It promises to be an enlightening and energetic evening. 

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