Mark Drapeau, a Fellow at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy of the National Defense University, was kind enough to send me a link to an op-ed piece that he and another military analyst wrote recently about a new Pentagon report on global warming as it relates to national security. It’s certainly very interesting that the Pentagon is taking global warming more seriously than the administration is. But it has also prompted me to offer some thoughts on global warming, something I’ve never done before because I just haven’t taken the time to really study the science of it.
Let me first say this: the consensus among qualified scientists certainly is that global warming is real and it is substantially man-made. Yes, there are some dissenting scientists who argue that global warming is a natural, perhaps cylical process, that has little to do with human activities. Because I haven’t really done the study necessary to really be able to evaluate such arguments, I don’t make strong claims either way. I have no strong reason to doubt the consensus opinion, but by the same token I have no strong reason to dismiss the dissenters out of hand either.
But here’s the key for me: I don’t think it matters. I know that probably seems like an odd statement given some of the doomsday scenarios some have offered – a vast increase in destructive weather patterns, global water shortages, rising sea levels destroying coastal cities, etc. But it seems to me that whether those worst case scenarios happen or not, and whether they are caused by human activity or are natural processes out of our control or not, have little effect on wise public policy choices.
What is the solution being proposed by those scientists arguing for global warming? The solution is to reduce our use of fossil fuels to generate energy and to reduce the use of technologies that add significant amounts of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. We can do that in lots of different ways, some of which involve conservation and some of which involve investments in new technologies that either use less, pollute less or use different sources of energy to run, sources which don’t put more carbon into the atmosphere.
Forget global warming for a moment and ask yourself this: shouldn’t we be doing those things anyway? Reducing our use of and dependence on fossil fuels for energy can only be a good thing for the world for a huge range of reasons. Even if global warming is one giant myth, the pollution that results from the burning of coal, oil and gasoline is real and unhealthy. Even if no city is ever flooded due to a rise in sea levels, investing in new technologies to generate power is going to have a hugely positive effect in terms of technological spinoffs.
Just think of the geostrategic benefits alone. If the US was able to cut its dependence on fossil fuels in half, the Middle East becomes a mildly interesting place where people don’t like each other rather than a geopolitical powderkeg that could destroy our economy. As it stands, the entire world economy is at the mercy of OPEC and with China ramping up its economy the cost of oil isn’t going to go back down any time soon.
Developing solar or wind power generating technologies means less pollution, less reliance on fossil fuels, new technological spinoffs that can create new industries and jobs, more economic security due to lower inflation and much more. Even if global warming is the biggest myth anyone has ever dreamed up, the solutions being proposed are no-brainers. We should be doing those things for a thousand other reasons anyway. Besides, if Spinal Tap believes in it, who am I to argue?