More and more businesses and industries are buying into the climate orthodoxy that human activities are the primary cause of climate change . And, democratic candidates for President are making it a wedge issue that will put further pressure on business and industry to get on board.
While a large number of scientists support this hypothesis, for a variety of reasons, it still is only a hypothesis that relies on complex computer models that have been built using a large number of assumptions that attempt to fill gaps in knowledge. While short term business objectives may justify going along to get along, there is an unexplored alternative that would not compromise the business community and damage our economic system.
Instead of being politically correct and accepting the climate orthodoxy and the actions that flow from it, industries and businesses should lay out an action oriented agenda that neither accepts or rejects the orthodoxy.
The United States is making more progress than most developed countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, some of which is the natural evolution of technology and some due to wrong headed policies that suppress fossil fuel use.
Instead of accepting renewable standards biased in favor of wind and solar, a focus on incentives to shift to natural gas and revive the nuclear option would be more cost-effective. Nuclear has two big hurdles—fear and cost. The fear that has resulted from nuclear accidents that did not result in any casualties can be addressed by a well developed communication initiative that focuses on why nuclear should be the preferred option for reducing emissions and why it is in consumers interests to support it. The cost issue is more difficult but it is not an insurmountable hurdle. Two major cost drivers are the regulatory approval process and the lack of reactor standardization. The progress being made with smaller modular reactors holds promise in lowering costs, increasing public comfort and, in competing with wind and solar. The case needs to be made for a level playing field in power generation benefits consumers so that alternatives can be judged fairly.
The unneeded and wasteful subsidies for ethanol should be eliminated by demonstrating that tail pipe emission standards can be met without an ethanol mandate and that the production process actually leads to an increase in CO2. Ethanol manufacturers should not be given a free ride.
Sea level rise, independent of the human component, is a serious problem but one for which near term solutions are readily available. Coastal regions need to revise building codes so that new structures are not allowed so close to the waters’ edge that damage from sea rise and coastal storms is almost inevitable. Currently, flood insurance is subsidized by the Federal Government, lowering the true cost of insuring coastal structures. This subsidy should be eliminated. Most of the Netherlands is below sea level and yet the Dutch have developed technology for mitigating the effects of flooding, Industry should support a vigorous program to adopt some of that technology.
While the natural process of decarbonization is taking place, industry ought to support and participate in research to better clarify and define the extent of human influence on climate as well as of other factors identified by the IPCC. The IPCC identified uncertainties provide a solid basis for a collaborative research program for demonstrating that the science is not settled and developing a better understanding of factors beyond CO2 that influence the climate system.
For over 20 years, estimates of climate sensitivity have varied by a factor of three. Research should be pursued to make that estimate more precise. Over the same time period, Danish scientist, Henrick Svensmark has been conducting research to better understand the effect of solar activity on climate and to demonstrating how solar related mechanisms affect cloud cover and cloud formation. Additional solar related research should make clear that the effect of solar activity on warming has been underestimated in making attribution determinations.
A recent audit of temperature data by Dr. John Mclean has raised serious questions about the data bases that are the foundation for models and projections of future climate catastrophes. The data bases from the Hadley Center and NOAA should be independently audited to validate or refute McLean’s findings. We already know from work by Professor John Christy that US temperature measurements have seriously over estimated actual temperatures.
Collaborative research on natural variability, the actual impact of increasing CO2 levels since the warming effect is not linear, and on improving models in order to add to our state of knowledge and demonstrate that industry is being part of the solution and not the problem.
Americans are sorely in need of being educated on what is realistic in terms of emission reduction impacts. If the US adopted all measures that are minimally economically plausible, the effect on global warming and climate would be marginal because the sources of emissions and increased atmospheric levels of CO2 are China, India, and developing nations that show no real inclination to reduce their use of coal or to accept lower levels of economic growth.
The alternative to taking a stand on principle and engaging in a constructive, realistic action agenda is to get rolled and rolled often. The threat to the capitalist economic model is growing as evidenced by the percentage of people who believe socialism is preferable and by the support for the Green New Deal. Proponents of the Green New Deal and similar programs must be challenged to show the cost of these programs, their effect on the economy, as well as on global warming. That information would be sobering.
Past business strategies for confronting the climate orthodoxy have not worked. They have resulted in losing but losing gradually. It is time to try a third way that is based on challenging climate advocates to join in a collaborative research and policy initiative. They will most likely reject such an approach because they are winning. But that would demonstrate that they are more interested in scoring points than in developing cost-effective solutions. That would put then on the defensive.