Sunday, February 2, 2014

This Winter's Cold Snap Shows the Importance of Fossil Fuels, Global Warming or Not

The unusually cold winter in the Eastern two-thirds of the nation has led some to question global warming and/or man-made climate change. A recent NJ Star-Ledger letter by Linda made the point that "individual weather events are not reliable indicators of long-term climate trends."

She went on to regurgitate the usual catastrophic consequences of global warming and condemn fossil fuels.

I left these comments:

It's true: This winter's cold snap is not an indicator of climate trends. The climate has warmed recently, and some of the warming is due to human activity. So what? The warming is minimal—only 1.5 degrees F since the mid 19th Century. Nature's forces, many of them hostile to human life, haven't changed. This winter's cold snap proves it. What has changed is humans' ability to cope with nature and harness its power to improve life on Earth. What made those changes possible? Clean, plentiful, reliable, affordable energy.

Since the arrival of fossil fuel energy technology, life expectancies have more than doubled, child mortality have plunged, and climate-related deaths have dropped 98%.

Fossil fuels vastly improve the planet. Our environment has never been cleaner, safer, or more conducive to human life. We have clean drinking water, sanitation, indoor heating and cooling. Fossil fuels power our famine-eradicating industrial agriculture and health-advancing medical industry. Ease of transportation drives commerce: Everything we need is at our fingertips year round, brought in from around the world. We've never had more opportunities or time for recreational activities, thanks to the productivity tools that shortens our workdays.

In the last 35 years, China and India have turned to fossil fuels—primarily coal—for energy production. Result; rising life expectancies (8 years) amid a rising standard of living. 2 billion more people, including hundreds of millions of children, now can escape infectious diseases because they have the water purification plants and pipeline infrastructure to deliver clean, safe drinking water to their homes.

All of this and more would not be possible without plentiful, reliable, affordable energy. 87% of the world's energy is provided by fossil fuels. Most of the rest is provided by nuclear and hydroelectric, also clean and reliable, and which would provide more if environmentalists hadn't hampered it. So-called "renewables" provide only 2 % despite massive government subsidies and handouts, and every bit of that 2% needs reliable back-up, primarily from fossil fuels. Even Germany, the leader in wind and solar, has once again started building coal-fired power plants—a dozen planned for the next 2 years.

Fossil fuels are good for the environment—the human environment. Without fossil fuels, we'd still be at the mercy of nature's unforgiving forces—like this years invasion of the Polar Vortex. Before industrial energy, infectious diseases were rampant, there was no nighttime illumination, indoor pollution was horrific because of wood, coal, and animal dung burning for heat and cooking, open water sources were polluted by animals, famine was common, and if your family lived a hundred miles away, you almost never saw them. Life was short and brutal. Is this what you want to return to? How cruel would that be?

Fossil fuels are good. They have made life vastly better. They are the hope for a better life for the still-impoverished nations. They will be needed for the foreseeable future. They will power the discovery, invention, and development of energy technologies that will eventually have to replace them. Linda says, "By burning fossil fuels the past 150 years, humans have endangered our future in ways we cannot yet predict." If the dangers cannot be predicted, then how can anyone know our future is endangered? One thing we do know: Considering the known benefits of fossil fuels, abandoning fossil fuels WILL endanger our future—and destroy our present.

Related Reading:

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change: Remember Life Before Them

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