My column of 8 Jul 19 elicited a number of comments from readers. At the time our feedback form at the bottom of each column was not working (it is now, thanks to these fine folks bringing this to our attention) and they wanted to be able to make their voices heard. This is an appropriate idea, so I wrote to them as a group on 11 Jul 19 with the following message:
"You are receiving this email because you and others expressed an opposing view to Jim Thompson's Nip Impressions column of 8 July 2019 (Thoughts on the Environmental Dialogue). We want to let you be heard. We will publish all the rebuttals we get as one column dated Week of 29 Jul 2019, provided you follow these ground rules:
- You must be willing to let us print your name and email address. We will verify these with you before you will be included.
- Your rebuttal must not be political .
- Not use foul language or be derogatory towards any person, political office, institution or organization.
- Not include citations such as "97% of all scientists say" or cite any United Nations organization or works.
- Not be an advertisement or an endorsement for services or products you sell or represent.
- Be in simple enough terms that a 5thor 6th grader can understand it.
- All submittals become the property of Paperitalo Publications, LLC.
"Due to our publishing schedule, we will need your work no later than end of the business day, 19 Jul 2019. If it is close but not within our guidelines, we will work with you. If it is simply a rant, we won't, and you won't be published.
"Thanks for your interest in Nip Impressions."
I thought this was fair, as these are generally the rules I follow when writing Nip Impressions. Only two of the people who received these ground rules chose to respond in a timely fashion and stayed generally within in them. Another veered far from them, fought with me over them, and is not included.
But before we get to their responses, I thought I would share an interesting article that I was pointed to by my daughter, a noted renewable energy engineer and scientist who works for the US government (and with whom I often disagree). It is along the lines of some parts of my 8 Jul 19 article, but she did not share it until after the 8 Jul 19 article was published. You can find this article at: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/5/29/17386112/all-life-on-earth-chart-weight-plants-animals-pnas.
Then, there are two sites that I consult regularly on the issue of climate change. I am sure our respondents will disagree with their veracity (and their funding), however, in the interest of fairness to all sides, I include them without comment here. I will hasten to say they are considered by some to be political. https://www.heartland.org/ and https://wattsupwiththat.com/
It is important to note that I put my comments at the beginning of this column, not the end, for I desire that you, dear reader, leave this column with the words of the rebutters, not mine, fresh in your mind.
Now to the rebuttals:
Onlypulpandpaperjobs.com has hundreds of registrants! [03.01.19]
This is from John Fitzgerald (email@example.com):
Dear Mr. Thompson and Nip Impressions Readers-
One point of agreement is that name calling is counter-productive regardless of one's beliefs. Often those who believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change are labeled by those with differing views as Environmental Extremists or even Environmental Terrorists; a colleague friend of mine referred to us (I include myself in the believing persuasion) as "a bunch of nuts". So, if placing a label indicates a weakness in one's position, then those on the other side of the discussion must be subject to the same criticism. If I must use a label for those with doubts, then Climate Change Skeptic would be my preference. Perhaps one of the biggest casualties of Global Warming is the ability of people to disagree in a civil manner without resorting to name calling or other verbal insults.
I agree with the notion that the consensus opinion is often proven to not be correct. It may ultimately prove that the climate change "crisis" is either less severe or more severe than the current consensus regards it. You had mentioned how Galileo was ultimately correct in his view of the universe. I might point out that Steven Hawking (the most brilliant scientist since Einstein or Newton and one who often promoted iconoclastic ideas), never- the-less regarded anthropogenic climate change as a fact and was very concerned that mankind is not yet seriously addressing it and that we are already very close to the point where it becomes irreversible. In the case of Galileo his findings were contradicting not scientific research but religious dogma that stated the earth was the center of the universe. In this case, those disagreeing with Anthropogenic Climate Change are contradicting the overwhelming consensus of research derived by use of the scientific method.
Regarding the stadium analogy, there are a number of concerns with the argument-
- The stated range of carbon dioxide (CO2) from 180 ppm to 4000 ppm over the last 500 million years is approximately correct. Of course, as you note the 180 ppm represents the level at the peak of an ice age. The average CO2 concentration during the Cambrian period was indeed about 4000 ppm; however, at that time the average temperature was about 7 degrees C higher than the present and sea level was about 180 feet above the current because of very little if any glaciation on the planet; also, there was only limited very primitive plant life and no animal life on land so its relevance to the current situation is not very apparent.
- Shifting the discussion to respiration of creatures as the primary source of CO2 rise in the atmosphere would appear to be a bit of a "red herring". To my knowledge, no serious climate scientist believes either the respiration of people or that of insects for that matter has a major impact on CO2 content of the atmosphere. (Although it is possible insects, specifically tropical termites, as impacted by human deforestation practices may have significant impact on methane levels.) The release of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases due to the use of fossil fuels and other human activities such as deforestation, animal husbandry amongst others is the overwhelming source of our impact on the atmosphere. We are currently adding more than 9 billion tons of carbon (33 billion tons of CO2) to the atmosphere each year via fossil fuel burning and cement manufacture. Respiration of 7.5 billion humans is adding about 10% of that amount (about 3.1 billion tons). The net impact of respiration of insects depends on whether their mass is changing or steady over time; also, one would note that a cold-blooded insect pound for pound should produce less CO2 than a warm-blooded human.
- As carbon dioxide rises ocean acidification becomes as great an environmental concern as the temperature rise and that is ignored in this discussion. Ocean acidification in combination with warming water is doing increasing harm to corals, shellfish, and other aspects of marine ecosystems.
- That many areas of the earth should be greening as the planet warms should be expected; other areas should do the converse. This should all be expected as precipitation patterns shift with the warming climate. Many plants should indeed respond favorably to rising CO2 levels, but the question becomes as to whether those deemed by mankind to be beneficial plants or those not so regarded will be preferentially enhanced. For example, poison ivy is particularly nurtured by rising CO2 levels with its growth rates and potency doubling since the 1960s. Perhaps the most important considerations would be for the principal grain crops. A 2016 NASA study indicates the negative effects due to temperature extremes and water scarcity brought about by global warming are compensated to a significant effect by CO2 improved photosynthetic yields and reduced transpiration. So globally for wheat and soybeans, there is no projected net impact (better or worse), a slight net negative for rice, but a still significant net negative impact for corn yields but there is not a net benefit for the grain crops of increased CO2.
- Indeed, some CO2 is desirable. Without CO2 and other greenhouse gases the earth would be roughly 30 degrees C colder than it is. However, that does not mean that more and more CO2 become more and more desirable. Yes, during the Cambrian period and up to about 65 million years ago the earth was a much warmer place and life thrived most of the time. But there was very little to no glaciation and sea level was about 230 feet higher than now. What we are currently doing is heading the planet back to a period with no glaciation with coastlines at a place where most current coastal cities will be far underwater; the only question of debate will be how long it is going to take us to get there and is the rate of rising seas and other climate changes one at which our current civilization can adapt to without coming apart at the seams.
- More direct to a core argument of the stadium analogy, there are many occasions in the world where something present at low concentrations has large impacts. We in the pulp and paper industry are very familiar with having our world turned upside down by dioxin compounds present in the parts per trillion or even parts per quadrillion range. Carbon dioxide is very active in the Infrared (IR) region of the light spectrum and hence has a significant effect on holding heat. Methane is even more active in the IR so has large heat retention as well even though it is present at parts per billion levels as opposed to carbon dioxide at parts per million levels.
The level of CO2 in the atmosphere was very stable up until about 1800 with the rise corresponding to the Industrial Revolution rather than the American Revolution (1776) so there is no reason to wrap a link to the American Revolution into the discussion.
Regarding, the level of crowding or lack thereof of the human species on the planet it is a matter of opinion. It is interesting that Jacksonville Florida, the city in the US with the largest area was chosen for the calculation presumably to maximize the calculated space per person; if San Francisco California (a city with almost the same population as Jacksonville) had been chosen instead, the calculated available space per human would have decreased by a factor of 16. However, the square footage space required for a human being to occupy is a specious argument. The real question is the square footage of space required to support that human being in terms of food, energy, water, and of course the waste products that his or her existence creates.
The discussion ignores other negative impacts of global warming including more intense tropical cyclones. extremes of rainfall (both flood and drought), the advance of tropical vector borne diseases into more northerly latitudes, the rapid advancement of warmer climate zones into both higher elevations and higher latitudes causing ecosystem disruption, as well as the previously mentioned ocean acidification and sea level rise.
By the way, a personal poll of college educated professionals (not including any climate scientists themselves) that I have been keeping for the last several years indicates about 44% believing anthropogenic global warming needs to be addressed while 56% hold a wide variety of contrary positions on the subject. Where the viewership of Nip Impressions truly currently lies on this matter is easily resolved. Just e-mail Jim Thompson your position on the following scale:
Human Driven Climate Change-aka, Anthropogenic Global Warming
1 - Highly Skeptical
2- Somewhat Skeptical
4- Somewhat Believe
5- Strongly Believe
Must provide name and e-mail to avoid multiple votes by same person.
However, scientific fact will be the ultimate arbitrator of this matter, as scientific reality does not care about opinion polls.
Jim Thompson once (1/3/2011) said in a "Nip Impressions" column "all climate is local" meaning people should judge climate change based on their local experience (full quote below *1). The local perspective is a good one as warming in the United States has been very unequal thus far. States like Florida, Delaware, and California for example have experienced far more warming in terms of extreme changes than have states like Kansas and Mississippi. However, on that basis think of some local experiences in the eight short years since Jim wrote that column - of Paradise and other California communities with the fires, Houston after Hurricane Harvey, Dominica and Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, the US. Northeast after Hurricane Sandy. While all extreme weather events cannot be blamed on climate change, the warming climate is loading the dice.
Best Regards and Try to Be Civil Even with Those with Whom You Strongly Disagree,
*1 "From now on I'll look out my window to form my judgments on the climate. One could possibly say all climates are local, as well as pollution. In fact, I will say it; if I can see or measure it and it is something that is not where it is supposed to be ... that is pollution." <January 3, 2011, Jim Thompson>
*2 Sandy (2012) - tropical cyclone hybrid with largest wind field kinetic energy at U.S. landfall
Haiyan (2013) - most intense tropical cyclone at time of landfall anywhere in world on record
Harvey (2017) - most extreme rainfall ever from landfalling hurricane in US history
Maria (2017) - most destructive hurricane ever for Puerto Rico and Dominica
2018 California Fires - largest and most destructive in CA state history
I'll point out a response to a survey as John proposes above is not scientific, however it could be interesting and have its own merits. If you choose to respond, please put "Fitzgerald Survey Response" in the subject line so I can find it.
Next, we have this from Annette Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Thank you for your column and for not name-calling those of us who are climate change believers. Your guesstimate that 90% of your audience is still skeptical is both surprising and disappointing. I hope that you are wrong that it is that high.
There are two essential questions: 1. Do you believe that climate change is real and caused by humans? 2. Do you think that we should try to do anything to mitigate it?
Skepticism is healthy but the data overwhelmingly support that climate change is real and is caused by humans.
You made a great point about our environment that "The question is what is left to do, and what is the cost, measured by any metric, to accomplish what is left to do." I appreciate and share your concern over government intervention - taxes and creating an unequal competition/advantage to different countries, etc. So as far as what to do about it, I like the idea of a carbon fee and a 100% return per capita dividend regardless of income as proposed by Dr. James Hansen.
I have shared my current perspective, but I am continually searching for what others I respect think about the subject which is why I'm so intrigued to learn exactly what your audience actually thinks. Our industry is collectively a great group of intelligent people.
Again, thank you for covering such an important topic. No matter which side you are on, there are likely serious consequences. Maybe I am deluded but I like to think that our industry can be part of the solution since as you point out in your email signature, a working forest provides wildlife habitat and carbon storage, etc. We need to do a better job of spreading our message of sustainability.
Be safe and we will talk next week.