A Sustainable Environment: Our Obligation to Protect God’s Gift
by George P. Nassos
Be Careful of Experts with Distorted News
There is no question that global warming, better known today as climate change, is a major environmental issue, and as a result, there are many articles written about it. These articles talk about the cause of this critical environmental issue as well as what needs to be done to mitigate it. You can receive these articles through your subscription newsletters or you can have them sent to you by interested parties. Let me comment on two such news items sent to me by people asking for my opinion.
One such article was titled “Where Does the Carbon Dioxide Really Come From?” It was a summary of a book “Climate change delusion and the great electricity rip-off” written by Ian Plimer, an Australian geologist and professor emeritus of earth sciences at the University of Melbourne as well as professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide. He has excellent credentials, but I question some of his arguments about the source of carbon dioxide.
He claims that the volcanic eruption in Iceland has emitted more carbon dioxide in four days than all the efforts in place to reduce the emissions during the past five years. And he further claims that this is just one of about 200 active volcanoes on the planet doing the same thing, spewing out the carbon dioxide every day. He also states that when the volcano Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth.
While erupting volcanoes do emit carbon dioxide, they also emit larger amounts of sulfur dioxide which converts to sulfuric acid. The acid condenses rapidly in the stratosphere to form fine sulfate aerosols. The aerosols would then increase the reflection of the sun’s rays back into space and thus start cooling the atmosphere. So along with ash that is emitted by volcanoes, the impact of an erupting volcano is more cooling than warming.
Volcano eruptions like Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 and Mt. St. Helens in 1980 have emitted large quantities of carbon dioxide, but it is a fraction of what mankind emits every year. According to US Geological Survey, it would take 700 eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo or 3500 eruptions of Mt. St. Helens to equal the annual anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide.
Volcanoes Can Affect Climate | U.S. Geological Survey (usgs.gov)
Another presentation is critical of what we are doing to mitigate the climate change issue. This is from another reputable organization, Prager University, and presented by Mark Mills, Senior Fellow at Manhattan Institute. Titled Unobtanium, he talks about the limited availability of solar and wind energy because they can only operate when there is sun or wind, something we all know. So a large quantity of batteries is needed to store this energy. He points out that it would take Tesla’s new Nevada facility 500 years to produce enough batteries to store one day’s worth of electricity. However, you really don’t have to store any of the electricity if it is being fed to the grid. His further criticism is that solar panels, wind turbines and batteries are all built from nonrenewable materials which require large efforts in the mining of iron ore as well as rare earth metals like lithium, cobalt and dysprosium. And after a useful life of 20 years, which I think is incorrect, there will be a large amount of waste. He states that by 2050, discarded solar panels alone will amount to twice the volume of plastic waste today.
His proposal is to consider our almost inexhaustible supply of hydrocarbons to produce energy that is much cheaper than renewable energy. He gives an example that the cost to build one oil well is about the same as that of one wind turbine. While the wind turbine generates in one hour the equivalent energy of one barrel of oil, the oil well will produce 10 barrels of oil per hour. He doesn’t mention at all the emission of carbon dioxide by this vast supply of hydrocarbons which is not inexhaustible by any means.
You might ask why are there presentations that go against the need to reduce carbon emissions. The article about the volcanoes is from a citizen of Australia, a country that is ranked 59th out of 64 countries in the Climate Change Performance Index. It produces about 8% of the world’s thermal and metallurgical coal although it represents only 0.3% of the world population. Exporting of coal is a major market for the country and as a result it is doing little to reduce that market.
The speaker from Prager U., which is not really a university but a media company, is connected with companies focused on nuclear power and fossil fuel development. So it is not surprising to find this kind of presentation on a website that creates videos on various political, economic, and sociological topics from an American conservative viewpoint.
I have not personally done any scientific research on climate change so I have to go along with the 97% of the climate scientists who agree that humans are causing global warming. So be careful when you receive information that is to the contrary to the 97%.