By Michael R. Fox, Ph.D.
November 28, 2007

I am always amazed that in a nation of high technology and science the media are so spectacularly and relentlessly ignorant of the scientific processes. Worse, many interest groups exploit this to their own advantage and agendas. Over the years the media have lost their curiosity and the willingness to do their own homework.

On November 2, 2007, the national meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors convened with a veritable love fest with past President Bill Clinton and a teleconference with Al Gore. Much of the love fest centered upon global warming, the pending doom, the spreads of diseases, rising tides, and what the mayors were planning to do about it. The media, local and national, were in their predictable swoon, with the notion of a hard media question completely absent.

Mind you that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that global temperatures have risen about 0.7 deg C over the past 120 years or so. That’s about 0.07 degrees per decade, or 0.007 degrees warming per year. This is so small that if this 120 year increase were to occur in a room, no one would notice. With many places on the earth actually showing no changes or small declines in temperatures, no one actually asked how does anyone know the 0.7 deg C exactly, and where did it occur, how was this measured, and with what instrumentation? Not in Seattle.

Al Gore brought another swoon when he observed that industry is treating the atmosphere like an open sewer and that needs to be fixed. With due respect, the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970. Air quality has improved markedly since that time, even while acknowledging a 50 percent increase in population since then. According the Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, since 1970 there has been an 83 percent decline in particulate matter, 52 percent decline in sulfur dioxides, 52 percent decline in volatile organic carbons, 98 percent decline in lead, and a number of other improvements. It’s remarkable that Gore would ignore this amazing improvement in air quality to score political points. I learned of the life giving chemistry of photosynthesis in high school chemistry. It also is the source of oxygen in the atmosphere.

Remarkably, Gore contends that CO2 is a pollutant, when in fact, it is essential to all life, plant and animal. Gore called for the ban on coal plants which now provide more than 50 percent of the nation’s electricity, and never mentioned nuclear energy which provides a nominal 20 percent more of the nation’s electricity without emitting a molecule of CO2.

President Clinton joined in the fest as reported in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on November 2, 2007, by announcing a program to provide energy efficient products more affordable to 1100 U.S. cities by buying in bulk. I am reminded of the fallacy of the “The Broken Window” in economics.

There are large and hidden costs to be paid by governments subsidizing billions of dollars in energy efficient products. I’ve purchased a number of energy efficient light bulbs and have been unimpressed. The string of logic between an energy efficient light bulb and the pursuit of a vague and ill-defined lower global temperature is essentially nonexistent.

Twisted logic hung heavy in the air. Clinton suggested, as has Gore, that nations like China and India will do nothing about the global warming problems until the U.S. does so and shows the way. Subsidizing energy efficient products with taxpayers’ money is hardly a solution to the problem. The government which robs Peter to pay Paul will always have the support of Paul, and lots of mayors, apparently. That is socialism about which China is an expert.

China has bigger problems to solve, and happens to sit upon the world’s largest deposits of coal. They have 30,000 coal mines and are opening a new mine weekly. They are also completing a new coal fired plant every 5 days, and will continue to do so for years. China is now the world largest consumer of coal, and consumes more than the U.S. and the EU combined. It is now the world’s largest emitter of CO2. They plan to double this by the year 2025. But the Seattle gathering of the nation’s mayors was hanging on his every word of promised giveaways.

One would have hoped to hear these mayors concentrate their time and energy upon more pressing problems such as reducing taxes, urban crime, illegal immigration, and how to fight the war on terrorism. With leadership like this we all have reasons to worry, a lot.

Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., a science and energy reporter for Hawaii Reporter and a science analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and now lives in Eastern Washington. He has nearly 40 years experience in the energy field. He has also taught chemistry and energy at the university level. His interest in the communications of science has led to several communications awards, hundreds of speeches, and many appearances on television and talk shows.