Fossil fuels not solely to blame for climate change

The climate began to warm 200 years ago

A recent column (April 8th) urging the abandonment of fossil fuels in order to prevent the extinction of life on Earth presents a very biased and inaccurate position. 

The popular belief, accepted as fact, states that greedy energy companies — producing coal, oil and gas that when burned produces energy —  is the cause of climate change.

The combustion process from wood, peat, coal, oil and gas produces the waste gas of carbon dioxide (CO2).

It is true that the CO2 percentage of atmosphere gases has increased 25 percent over the last 100 years.

But the climate began to warm 200 years ago. 

We should not limit our understanding of climate change to one factor: the burning of fossil fuels.

Few are interested in the fact that Earth’s climate radically cooled into what geologists termed an Ice Age over 2 million years ago, with periodic interglacial warming periods.

It seems that we are interested in the “here and now,” measure the increase in CO2, and make doomsday predictions.

Few will deny combustion of fuel-producing CO2 is a warming factor. But how much of a warming factor?

Is the combustion of fossil fuels producing CO2 a very high warming factor? Or is fossil fuel usage a very low warming factor?

The assumption is that fossil fuel production is the single factor warming the planet.

Therefore, we ignore other factors that affect climate. 

Climate researchers list many contributing factors to climate change.

I will note only three to make the point that climate change is a very complex issue and governments and people should not accept a single-cause factor.

(1) Radiation from the sun;

(2) Internal energy originating within the mantle of the Earth that causes subduction (movement) of continental plates;

(3) Methane releases from the vast arctic areas of the planet.

We know that these factors do not remain constant.

But by assuming these factors have no influence on climate change is an error in understanding.

The combustion of fossil fuels has greatly raised the well being and longevity of humanity.

Conservation and government regulations have sharply reduced the usage of fossil fuel energy as the human population greatly increased over the last century.

Wind, solar and other energy sources are rapidly increasing.  

Our lives are based on fossil fuels. We take for granted that it will always be there.

We turn up the thermostat and heat comforts us. We drive to the store and we take planes to vacation locations and business.

We assume the fossil fuel will be there for our needs and wants. Perhaps a brief summary of fossil fuel development will help in our understanding of the energy issue.

Fact: The benefits of oil as a healing agent date back to Biblical times.

Fact: The first oil well was developed in Titusville, Pa., in 1859. This was a period in time when whales were being hunted to near extinction for oil used to fuel the lamps of the developing country. The processing of oil into kerosene stopped the killing of whales for fuel.

Fact: The limited Appalachian oil deposits, including development in western New York, were rapidly depleted. That prompted a worldwide search for new fuel sources.

Fact: The East Texas Spindletop discovery in 1901 by an uneducated man (Pattillo Higgins) who defied geologic understanding of that day and John D. Rockefeller’s monopoly on the developing oil industry ushered in 70 years of abundant, inexpensive energy.

Fact: The electrical industry, largely developed in Schenectady, required the development of massive coal deposits for electrical energy. It bettered the life of all people.

Fact: Fossil fuels energized the steel industry, which developed large tubular products that conveyed convenient, inexpensive natural gas into the Northeast that displaced labor-intense coal for home and industry. Not understood at the time, the change to natural gas energy reduced CO2 emissions.

Those voices that wish to eliminate fossil fuels, believing such direction will stop climate change, are in error.

Energy development needs will continue to increase worldwide.

Replacement of fossil fuels for other sources is not possible.

Let the market place prevail under environmental regulations without political interference.

Russ Wege is a retired engineer who lives in Glenville.

Categories: Opinion

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