And it needs to stop.
The commenters are mostly smart, educated, scientifically-minded people. But they are spewing so many bad ideas, misconceptions, and straight-up falsehoods that I need to rant.
Here is an incomplete list of the off-base things people are saying, and why they are wrong.
Myth #1: The real problem is livestock, fertilizer, CO2 from breathing, etc.
The #1 cause of global warming, by far, with a bullet, is CO2 emitted from burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Increase in CO2 since 1750 has caused more than 3x the temperature increase than any other greenhouse gas. And the vast majority of this increase is attributable to fossil fuel combustion.
Other gases contribute somewhat to global warming, and can have much more potent greenhouse effects per-unit of mass. But the sheer amount of CO2 in the atmosphere dwarfs nearly all these fringe greenhouse gases.
Myth #2: Global warming is an unsolvable problem, so we should just plan for it to happen
I don’t disagree that we should prepare for global warming. It is already happening, and it will take decades for the greenhouse gases we’ve already emitted to leave the atmosphere.
But the world is making major progress to reduce emissions, including the top two polluters. China has enacted policies expected to cause CO2 emissions to decline starting in 2025. The U.S. has been steadily reducing emissions since 2008, and solar power accounts for 64% of new electricity generation in the U.S. Other countries, especially in Europe, are doing even better.
There are major challenges to reducing emissions, especially as developing countries modernize their electricity systems. But we are on the right track.
Myth #3: Fossil fuels are the best way for developing countries to modernize
Burning fossil fuels — especially coal, the cheapest and most abundant of them — is extremely harmful to humans. Air pollution causes millions of deaths each year. And the vast majority of air pollution is from energy production. Developing nations that rely on fossil fuels to generate electricity will poison their citizens, just like the rest of us have already done.
What’s more, fossil fuels are not even the cheapest way to increase electricity generation capacity! They’re only cheaper in the U.S. because we’ve already built the power plants to burn them.
For new construction, the EIA rates wind and hydro as being cheaper than coal and competitive with gas, with solar not far behind. And these projections are for the U.S. — where we have reliable rail transport for coal, pipelines for gas, and significantly less sun than much of the world.
Myth #4: Climate change is a problem not worth the effort to solve
Left unchecked, global warming will cause millions of deaths. Warmer temperatures increase occurrences of insect-borne diseases, floods, droughts, and severe tropical storms. These are things that kill people!
What’s more, these problems will cause significant social unrest, and probably war. The Department of Defense (those tree-huggers!) considers climate change to be a security risk for exactly these reasons.
Finishing up this rant
We can all do something to help stop climate change. I started U.S. Clean Energy Fund to make it easier for clean energy projects to get funding. But step #1 is to be informed on the issue.
Thanks for reading this tirade, and have a good weekend.
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