The American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank funded by ExxonMobil and with close ties to President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy’s Administration has been busted. They’ve been offering researchers and scientists funding in the neighborhood of $10,000 for articles in learned journals that slag, pardon me, "emphasize shortcomings" in a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.
The American Enterprise Institute is the arm of the right-wing that is vitally concerned with making as much money as is humanly possible. Members and scholars of the AEI include such luminaries as David Frum, the Bush speechwriter, Fred Thompson the ex-US Senator/Actor, Newt Gingrich, the punchline of jokes, John Bolton the ex UN ambassador from the US and Lynn Cheney. Yes, Shotgun Dick’s partner is in there. Also hiding in plain sight is Nixon’s Watergate-era fartcatcher, Herb Klein.
To put a fine point on it, the American Enterprise Institute is a pimp for big business. The Board contains members from ExxonMobil, International Paper, Merck & Co, Amex, Kohberg Kravis Roberts, TD Ameritrade, Dell, State Farm, Dow Chemical and CIGNA Insurance.
Which explains why the AEI tried to sway the output of the UN Panel on Climate Change: The results were, understandably, not ones that said nice things about big business. The AEI said that the UN panel was "resistant to reasonable criticism and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work". They figured they could buy some science, so they did.
If you are shocked that a big business think thank would try to spin scientific results to their own ends, then you need to get out more.
OK kids, this is complex. Science is never exact. There are only two constants in the universe: Hydrogen and Stupidity. And I’m not convinced about Hydrogen.
Even the head-injured can understand that something is wonky about the climate on this planet. In some areas it is global warming, in other areas the weather patterns have become unreliable, or more extreme. As soon as you call it global warming, the nay-sayers point to every chilly morning and say "See! It’s not warming up, the science is bogus, dude!" I’m using climate change as the term, as that is a more accurate description of what seems to be going on.
The Earth is a very complex climate system that we don’t understand as well as we think we do. However, in looking at the science and using that spacer between your ears to remember things, you can figure out that it isn’t an extended El Nino/La Nina/atmospheric wobble/statistical anomaly.
The big change in the past 400 years, give or take, has been the industrialization of Earth.
Global Climate Change is not caused solely by cow farts, ozone holes, deforestation, or aerosol cheese products. It has been caused by humans and our unrestrained technological and environmental rapacity over every vector you care to mention. We did this. You, me, your neighbors and some guy in a yurt in Ulan Bator, we’re all to blame.
Even if all the scientists are completely and utterly wrong, the constant is still there: The climate on our planet is changing in ways that we don’t understand and has very serious consequences. About all we can do is look at what has changed and make educated guesses as to how to undo, or fix or patch what we’ve botched. So, what has changed?
People: There are more humans on this rock than 400 years ago. The estimates from 1600 range from 545 million to 579 million people: A tick over a half-billion people. Today, Earth is home to over 6.5 Billion of us. This is something we cannot fix without a global nuclear war. There is a bit of a downside to that method of population control, so let’s just accept that there are more people now.
Hydrocarbons: In 1600 we had coal tar and pitch that was dug out of holes in the ground by hand. Some places used whale oil for lighting. Today, you name it and it is or was, or needs some kind of hydrocarbon somewhere in its’ production, use or disposal.
About the only thing that doesn’t use oil are the human souls that Shotgun Dick and Karl Rove dine on. Strike that, it comes in by truck to the Undisclosed Location.
Urbanization: We are not an agrarian, hunter-gatherer planet any more. We can produce more food than there are mouths, but we have people going to bed hungry even in our wealthiest cities. Our priorities are power, money and more money with a side of power and an order of extra power over other people. I’m not seeing that change any time soon.
Velocity: Your personal world and reality used to be things that were within walking or riding distance circa 1600. Everything, everyone and everywhere else was either conceptual, or so distant as to be inaccessible to the average person.
This morning, if I wanted to, I have the ability to be at Ping’s Shark Fin Restaurant at Sukhumvit 21 Road in Bangkok in about 17 hours. Mr. Saetia Hung Ping could be cooking for me shortly after I arrive from Mississauga. All I have to do is apply a few thousand dollars and hop a plane. I would have to actually like shark fin soup, but I don’t, so I’ve canceled my reservation. Plus, I have to do laundry.
I suspect that even a goat herder in the hills of Elbonia knows that Anna Nicole Smith died last week. We’re all jacked into a global media reality that tells us everything, but informs us of nothing. The velocity of our lives is so fast we’re getting red-shift.
Adaptability: We can’t and won’t. If the lights went off for more than a couple of hours, most of our cities would degenerate into rioting and despair. We have lost the drive as a species to adapt to changing conditions that might involve the shattering discomfort of having to do without the electric garlic press or the big screen TV.
Turning back the clock to 1600 isn’t going to fix anything, despite how noble it might seem to be One with Nature, sustainable agriculture, zero-emission footprint and so on. We can’t uninvent all the things that we have invented. Many of the things humans have created have been good for our species, but do have trade-offs we have to understand.
As an example, a horse-drawn, wood and iron milk delivery wagon in an urban area uses no oil. It is, potentially a good thing, but horse-drawn means manure we have to dispose of safely as it could pollute ground water and needs ice to keep the milk cold. The horse-drawn milk wagon also needs food for the horse, which means farm land, harvesting equipment and transport to get the food to the horse in the city. Plus farriers, wheelwrights, harness makers, veterinarians and animal health officers to support and manage the horse-drawn milk wagon.
Perhaps an electric milk delivery tr
uck would be more practical, as we have the infrastructure in place and understand the technology of delivery trucks. An electric power retrofit to an existing refrigerated truck is probably safer, from the standpoint of health risk, but you still have to generate the electricity in the first place.
It isn’t quite as simple as doing without oil. A much longer calculation is needed to get to the decision point regarding trade-offs.
However, we can use things better, as we’re smarter than the average bear when we have to be.
For instance, we don’t need our steaks wrapped in single use Styrofoam and swathed in low-density poly: That’s a very stupid single use that we throw out and bury in a landfill, without trying to find another use or two for the ergs of energy that still exist in the products.
Why not chop it up, burn some to extract the energy to make heat for houses, then use the ashes, and extra chopped foam as an additive into a light, self-insulating concrete for building purposes? I don’t know if it would work, but at least we’re getting one or two more uses out of that Styrofoam steak tray.
You can buy carpet underpadding that is made from recycled PET plastic bottles. You get another use out of the hydrocarbon and some underfoot comfort from garbage. This is a better use of the hydrocarbon, but it takes energy to remanufacture the PET. One program takes PET bottles and fills them with concrete to make rudimentary building blocks for housing in the less developed world, but it takes energy to get the empties to the site. It might be a good trade-off. I don’t know.
Disposable IV bags? That’s an acceptable use of a hydrocarbon, sort of. Glass IV bottles have existed before and seemed to work fine, as long as they were sterilized between uses and the needles and lines are not recycled from patient to patient.
Single-use glass that is recycled and remelted into new glass might be better, but it takes energy to remelt glass and I’m not sure if the heat of melting is enough to sterilize things perfectly. Do the temperatures in a glass furnace kill the prions that cause Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy? We need more information here.
Global Climate Change is a hydrocarbon deal. Even the stupid can see that hydrocarbons have been the biggest, most impacting change we’ve had as a planet. We’ve fought wars over it, more than once.
If we use less hydrocarbons we will probably have cleaner air. Cleaner air might mean we won’t have as drastic a climate change. We might even reverse some of the effects of climate change. Drastic reductions globally in the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) seems to have worked a bit for the ozone hole over Antarctica.
If we try to reuse and reuse again our hydrocarbons, then we’re going to get the most use out of a limited resource that will disappear.
The scientists, even the ones bought and paid for by the American Enterprise Institute are clear on that one: There is a limited amount of oil.