American climate scientist, author and alarmist Bill McKibben earlier this month set foot on the banks of Lake Tahoe at a conservation conference to sound his jeremiad that there must be a ?coordinated, global? effort to deal with climate change or it will mean the end of civilization as we know it.
?Scientists are quite clear that we will raise the temperature 4 to 5 degrees in the course of this century on our current trajectory,? The Associated Press quoted McKibben as saying. ?If that happens, then we can?t have civilization in the places and ways we?ve had them.?
He also claimed that 70 to 75 percent of Americans understand that global warming is very real, and something must done. ?The trick at this point is not to convert the other 25 percent. The fight is to get those who do know what?s going on as active and engaged as possible,? McKibben said.
Interestingly, at about the same time, British climate scientist and author Matt Ridley penned an article for The Wall Street Journal based on one of those infamous leaks about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?s (IPCC) ?fifth assessment report,? which is to be officially published at the end of this month.
Ridley says the latest 2,000-page report dials back the alarm, predicting future global warming will be slightly less than previously forecast.
Ridley concludes ?there is a better than 50-50 chance that by 2083, the benefits of climate change will still outweigh the harm.?
The predicted warming of 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 70 years would ?extend the range of farming further north, improve crop yields, slightly increase rainfall (especially in arid areas), enhance forest growth and cut winter deaths (which far exceed summer deaths in most places). Increased carbon dioxide levels also have caused and will continue to cause an increase in the growth rates of crops and the greening of the Earth ? because plants grow faster and need less water when carbon dioxide concentrations are higher,? the writer concludes.
But even those 2 degrees might be overstated, since climate forecasting models have overestimate warming by 100 percent in the past two decades.
In his books, McKibben says there is a ?fierce urgency? to slash worldwide carbon output, but says there is hope because some Washington politicians are getting onboard.
In fact, Nevada?s own Sen. Harry Reid may be piloting. According to power industry online publication Transmission Hub, Reid is the driving force behind the nomination of an anti-coal ally to head up the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a supposedly neutral regulator of the power grid and oil and gas pipelines.
The man Obama initially was planning to nominate was vetoed by Reid for being too pro-coal. FERC Commissioner John Norris confirmed Sen. Reid is behind the nomination of Ron Binz, the former head of Colorado?s Public Utilities Commission, who pushed through legislation that is shutting down all the Denver-area coal-fired power plants. That legislation was a blueprint for Nevada?s Senate Bill 123, which requires all coal plants to be closed early and have the ratepayers pay every dime of the cost of doing so.
As it turns out, apparently Binz is not only anti-coal, but anti-natural gas as well. According to an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Binz calls natural gas a ?dead end.?
Binz has said ?without carbon capture and storage, I think that?s a dead end, a relative dead end ? it won?t dead end until 2035 or so. But that?s when we need to do better on carbon than even natural gas will allow us to do under current assumptions.? Even gas is too dirty for the likes of Binz, even though there has been no global warming in 17 years.
Binz knows best and isn?t about to let us power consumers opt for cheaper energy when he thinks the planet is in danger: ?This is not a situation where it?s okay to be with a clean utility and it?s okay to let other customers go their own way, because there?s a commonality here. I think we need to keep preaching that. We have a bias toward individualism in this country, which can work for great things, but it can also at times prevent us from doing societal things, and there?s really no substitute for doing that right now.?
On the other hand, might global warming be a good thing?
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may share your views with him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Read additional musings on his blog at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.