The Weiner Component V.2 #32 – Pollution: Global Warming

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...

Temperature predictions from some climate models assuming the SRES A2 emissions scenario. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Great Global Warming Swindle

The Great Global Warming Swindle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Global Warming Map-tgk

Global Warming Map-tgk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If a person lights a fire in a fireplace in a small room, and the chimney flue is somehow blocked, the smoke will be trapped in the room, polluting it.  If the fire is allowed to continue to burn eventually the smoke in the room will become toxic.  If this is done in a large room the same process will take longer.  If an area is finite, no matter how large, the same effect will eventually result.  The difference will consist of a lot more toxic gases.  The Earth is the largest physical finite space we know of; it would require a tremendous amount of polluting gases to make it toxic.  But enough people over a large number of years releasing carbon-based polluting gases could and have achieve this.  The current population of the earth was approximately 7.5 billion people in April of 2017 and growing with three people being born for every single person who dies.  We may in some regions have currently reached the point of toxicity.

 

It has been argued that the planet goes through long warm and cold phases; and no doubt it does.  There have been warm rich volcanic exploding ages and frozen ice ages.  We are now in a period of gradual non-volcanic warming of the earth.  The ice at the poles is slowly melting.

 

Is this being caused by mankind daily sending millions of tons of polluting gases into the atmosphere which gradually has blocked much of the sun’s daily heat from dissipating back into space or is it occurring by a natural cycle?  The majority of people seem to blame man and his machines.  Individuals like Donald Trump and the Koch brothers who deal in oil production argue for a natural cycle.  Could it be a combination of the two?  Both contributing to a warming cycle, with man’s burning of polluting gases exacerbating the extent of the pollution and greatly increasing the rate of global warming.

 

My wife and I live on the West Coast about 40 miles from the ocean.  Recently in September we had a day when the heat wasn’t 100 degrees or hotter.  My wife complained that while it wasn’t hot enough to run the air conditioning it was still very muggy with the air filled with water vapor.  My comment was: Isn’t that what comes from global warming, moist air brought about by excess heat over the ocean?  She ran the air conditioning to take the moisture out of the air in our house.

 

These gases are not allowing much of the sun’s heat to dissipate, thus continually warming the earth.  The higher temperatures are generating storms by heating ocean currents and creating low pressure zones which absorb additional evaporation that create storms    like Hurricanes Harvey and Hurricane Irma which, in turn, are redistributing moisture, flooding cities like Huston in Texas, the fourth largest urban area in the United States.  Hurricane Irma has done the same thing in Florida and South Carolina.  While Harvey was a category 4 storm, Irma started as a category 5+ storm.  Winds of 157 miles per hour are considered a category 5.  Irma had winds of 187 mile per hour.  The East coast of the United States has never been hit by anything stronger than a category 3 storm.  On Sunday, September 10, after doing devastating damage throughout the Caribbean it came ashore in Florida as a category 6 storm with winds well over 150 miles an hour.

 

Is Hurricane Irma being caused by a single force or by a combination of forces?  Hurricane Irma has come up one week after Hurricane Harvey.  We have Hurricanes Jose, which is currently forming into a category 4 storm.  That makes ten hurricanes the United States has experienced so far this year.  We can conceivably have Hurricane Karen, and others this year.  Following Hurricane Irma by less than a week is Hurricane Jose.  Hurricane Irma is over four hundred miles wide.  It can and has covered the entire State of Florida.  We seem to be getting more and larger hurricanes.

 

The pole’s ice caps are melting, causing the oceans to very slowly rise.  The land surface very gradually decreases as the ice caps at the poles and glaciers decrease.  Is it wise to definitively say that the burning oil in the automobiles and otherwise are not affecting the atmosphere?  One can understand the position of the Koch Brothers and Donald Trump.  After all, they are businessmen and make a good part of their incomes and profits through the sale of oil.  One can even understand why Volkswagen cheated on the cars they sold, having the cars computer software purposely giving false information about the amount of pollutants each car was-throwing into the atmosphere.  After all their bottom line is profits; they are not really concerned with the condition of the planet.

 

Practically all scientists believe in the theory of man-caused global warming.  Because it is a theory and cannot be definitely proven there are global warming deniers.  It’s been my experience that these deniers generally have a vested interest in global warming not being man- induced.  Usually that interest is economic.

 

Historically there have been other scientific theories that could not be absolutely proven in the past.  One is the theory of evolution.  For a long period of time, when the Catholic Church had control of Europe the Theory of Evolution was heresy.  It went against the Church’s theory of the earth centered cosmos.  But as knowledge increased the Church rethought its theory.  There are still some religious groups today that deny evolution because it goes against the Biblical theory of creation.  I suspect the same thing will happen with the theory of man-made global change.

 

One can even understand why the oil companies are the chief financial supporters of the Republican Party, making generous continual contributions to them.  By legal definition political contributions are not bribes.  Consequently a goodly number of Republicans truly believe that the burnt oil pollution has nothing to do with weather conditions.  Of course an equal percentage of Republicans know better.  I suppose they are hypocrites.  But money is needed for political campaigns and they are all practical men.

 

One of the political comedians recently came out with the comment that some of the global warming deniers own vacation property in Florida that may be destroyed or seriously damaged by Hurricane Irma.  They may be facing a political or economic dilemma.

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Not too long ago President Trump visited Europe.  On the 7th and 8th of July 2017 the G20 2017 Summit took place in Hamburg, Germany.  Over 20 heads of government and representatives of international organizations met to discuss global warming.  President Trump, used this conference as an opportunity to directly communicate with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.  Also since he believes man’s usage of oil products does not affect the environment he withdrew his country from future Summits.  The U.S. had been one of the leaders in this group; in essence under Donald Trump’s leadership it withdrew from a leadership position in the world.

 

However, people like Governor Jerry Brown of California and other leaders around the United States stated that they will continue the struggle to lessen pollution within the U.S.  So the United States representatives both left the G20 and largely stayed with it, following its goals.  If a Democratic President is elected in 2020 the country will be back officially in the G20.

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Hurricane Harvey negatively affected everyone living in Houston, Texas while Hurricane Irma did the same for everyone living in Florida and beyond.  It is estimated that 96 percent of the houses in the Florida Keys were damaged or destroyed by the storm.  Someone commented that the area looked like the aftermath of an atomic explosion.

 

The cost of the damage is in the multi-trillions of dollars.  The total effects of the damage may never be completely eradicated.  Once all the water that covering the city and state is gone and the cleanup and building replacement is done all the structures that survived the flooding will have a mold problem. No matter how much cleaning is done the people doing the cleaning will never get rid of all the mold.  All the inhabitants from these areas will be, among other things, breathing in mold.  Will that shorten some lives?

 

From what is now known now Hurricane Irma killed, going through the Caribbean and parts of the United States at least 46 people, mostly in the Caribbean.  In one old age nursing home six people died because of a loss of electric power.

 

Many people in the U.S. left the area before the storm arrived.  The storm left about nine million people without electric power.  Presumably all the power will be restored by September 22, ten days from now.  The storms turned streets into extensions of rivers.  People traveled by boat where before the storm they had walked or driven.

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When any sort of pollutants are used that effect human beings in a negative fashion a factor that comes into being is the social cost of the use of that resource or resources.  For example the burning of gasoline by vehicles produces impurities in the air that can cause respiratory problems when breathed in.  In addition the burnt gas blocks a percentage of earth’s heat from dissipating, exacerbating the warming of the earth.  This, in turn, causes an increase in global warming.  The social costs would be an increase in medical costs for the increasing poor health of the people involved as well as the cost of the physical damage done by the hurricanes.

 

We have no way of ascertaining what the level of the storms would be if the pollutants had not been present.  Hurricane Irma was one of the largest storms to ever come through the area.  Would it have been a category 3 or 2 hurricane or would it have just been a storm if there had been no global warming?  The fact remains that the storms, at least in part, are caused by the pollutants in the atmosphere.  I doubt that a scientist can be found to dispute that.

 

If the social costs exceed the profits made in producing and selling the gasoline then the general public is taking a tremendous economic and health loss in the use of a particular resource.  They are being forced to assume the social costs brought about by the use of gasoline.  Alternate forms of energy that are harmless to the environment need to be found.  One way to encourage this would be in the form of numerous class action law suits against the companies that produce and sell the gasoline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #75 – Social Costs: Pollution & Global Warming

Vernon - Sunset

Vernon – Sunset (Photo credit: Drriss & Marrionn)

English: Duke Energy Center

English: Duke Energy Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If an individual or group of people want to start an industry, be it electrical power, producing automobiles, some form of food production, frozen or fresh, or whatever, they need a facility, machinery, labor, and the means of selling their product.  There are all sorts of costs in producing the item.  In order for the business to function and prosper they need to make a profit. If everything falls in line the industry grows and develops.

But there is another factor that is generally not really considered and that is the social cost of this production.  This is what making this item costs society in terms of pollution and global warming.  These costs can generally be put into dollars and cents.  They are expensive amounts paid by the public.  These social costs are the byproducts of the production, generally types of pollution created in the production of the particular product.  They are specific costs to the immediate and general society in the form of bad or unhealthy air, toxins in the drinking water, poisonous particles in the air or, for that matter, any other contamination which affects human life upon the planet.

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that causes adverse damage.  It can take the form of chemical material, radioactivity, noise, light, or heat.  Awareness of pollution grew after World War II due to radioactive fallout from atomic warfare and testing.  Also London has traditionally had heavy smog which limited visibility and apparently ability to breathe.  In 1952, the Great London Smog killed at least 4,000 people.  This resulted in environmental legislation in both England and the United States.   Congress, in the mid-fifties and early 1970s passed a Noise Control Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.  Most industrial nations have tried to control global warming.  It is generally believed by most scientist that the strange patterns of weather that many sections of the planet are experiencing are a result of global warming.

Interestingly, in the United States the Republican Party and its members do not believe in global warming. Apparently the conclusions of most environmental scientists throughout the world has no meaning for them. As far as they are concerned no climate change has anything to do with pollution, all the millions of tons of CO 2 or other gases released into the atmosphere do not in any way affect climate.  If there are changes it has nothing to do with human behavior.  This is like arguing that if a person is shot, his death is caused by the fact that he stopped breathing rather than the bullet that went through his heart killed him.

One group of the major funders of Republican politicians are the big industries and the billionaire industrialists, like the Koch Brothers who spend multi-millions on local, state, and national elections.  It is to their interest that the social costs of production not be turned back on to the producers; this would limit their profits, probably from the multi-billions to the multi-millions.  I suspect that by spending millions they are saving themselves the billions of dollars that the public picks up as the social costs of production.  For a Republican to be against global warming is one major way of ensuring that he will receive large contributions when he is running for public office.

In the summer of 2013 President Obama pledged to limit emissions that effect climate change.  Since the House of Representatives have taken no action, in late March of 2014 the White House announced a strategy to limit releases of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.  This is the most recent in a group of climate change initiatives.  This move lays the groundwork for a group of regulations that could affect agriculture, as well as the oil, gas, and the coal industries.

Methane, the major component of natural gas, is estimated to be more than twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels at trapping heat in the atmosphere.  While methane emissions are 9% of the country’s greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere, they are expected to increase.  The administration’s strategy to reduce Methane Emissions has been to lay out a timetable for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of the Interior, Energy, and Agriculture to bring this about.  These policies should improve public health and safety, and provide more energy to power communities, farms, factories and power plants.  Since Congress has deadlocked on climate legislation President Obama is using his executive powers to deal with sources of greenhouse gases.

The City of Vernon is an industrial municipality of 5.2 square miles located several miles southeast of Downtown Los Angeles in Southern California.  Located within this city is the battery recycler, Exide Technology.  This company is again being condemned for contaminating nearby homes with lead and threatening the health of more than 100,000 people with its arsenic emissions.  As a result the South Coast Air Quality Management District has ordered Exide Technologies to limit its operations by 15% and later temporarily shut down the factory.  Community members have been urging regulators to close the plant permanently ever since it was revealed last year that its arsenic emissions posed an increased cancer risk.  The latest trouble comes less than two weeks after state officials revealed soil test had found elevated levels of lead in the yards of homes north and south of the plant and at a park near a preschool.  All of this seems to be a longtime problem caused by Exide Industries.

Exide Industries is one of the world’s largest producers, distributors, and recyclers of lead-acid batteries.  Plants are located all over the world in sixty countries.  One of the plants in the east coast of the U.S. has been permanently closed down.  At Vernon, at a public meeting, on March 19, 2014, residents demanded that the plant be shut down.  Emotions ran high.  The concern was that the densely populated neighborhood around the Exide plant has been in danger for years.  In April 2013 the plant in Vernon, California was shut down for arsenic, lead leakage, and emissions.  In June of 2013 the plant filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The company is still functional today.  Who will eventually end up paying the social monetary costs of both the cleanup and the medical problems of the local citizens?

Duke Energy, Which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, has 7.2 million customers.  It services Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, North and South Carolina, and Florida.  In 2002, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst identified Duke Energy as the 46th largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with roughly 36 million pounds of toxic chemicals released annually into the air.  The Political Economy Research Institute ranks Duke Energy 13th among corporations emitting airborne pollutants in the U.S.  In addition Duke Energy is virtually daily dumping toxic coal ash into some of the rivers in North Carolina which supply drinking water to cities in the state.

Following a February 2, 2014 coal ash spill that was the third largest of its kind the U.S. Attorney’s Office opened a grand jury investigation into Duke Energy and North Carolina regulators in the administration of Governor Pat McCrory.  McCrory had been an employee of Duke Energy for 28 years, received funding for his campaign from Duke Energy, and many critics have said his administration has intervened on Duke’s behalf to settle lawsuits over environmental violations.

North Carolina regulators on Thursday, March 20, 2014, cited Duke Energy, saying the utility deliberately dumped 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into a tributary of the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water for several cities and towns in the state.  The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the giant utility, who was responsible for a massive spill from a different coal ash containment pond Feb. 2, and had illegally pumped the ash from two coal ash ponds at its Cape Fear plant in Moncure, N.C into a canal that feeds into the Cape Fear River.

The State agency stated that Duke Energy had been getting away with the dumping by telling regulators it was part of routine maintenance.  The inspectors determined that 44 million gallons of toxic waste had been pumped from one pond for 78 days and 17 million gallons from a second site for 31 days.  Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, also has been cited by state regulators for a February 2 spill, which coated the Dan River with toxic coal ash sludge on the North Carolina-Virginia border for about 70 miles.

According to a United Nations committee, climate change is already affecting every continent and ocean, posing immediate and growing risks to people.  The longer society delays attempts to reduce the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases the more severe and widespread the harm will be.

Global warming threatens food and water supplies, security and economic growth, and will worsen many current existing problems, including hunger, drought, flooding, wildfires, poverty and even war.  Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.

On Sunday, May 4, 2014, the Los Angeles Times, on its front page published an article stating the scientists were trying to develop or find a breed of chicken that could successfully survive in warmer climates.

Can we ever solve this problem?  Are we forever going to have to pay the social costs of most types of production?  In all cases where pollution of any kind exists it is cheaper for the companies involved to pay fines and for cleanups of contaminated areas that it is for them to stop polluting.

The problem can be easily solved.  If it becomes less expensive for the companies and individuals creating the pollution to also pay the social costs of production than to continue polluting then that will occur.  If it were less expensive for Duke Energy to move and bury its coal ash in areas away from bodies of water and to install scrapers into its chimneys that remove the toxic particles from the smoke then they would do so.  Of course this would raise the cost of their products but it would also improve the health of the people in North Carolina and beyond.

In terms of global warming the same principle holds true.  In the United States the greenhouse gases that we emit are helping to change the temperature of our planet.  The bulk of this change is being done by the discharges of automobiles.  It is long past the time to consider other forms of mobility than the combustion engine.  There is, for example, electric power.  It may be time to consider major changes in motive power for automobiles.

Companies like Exide Technology may have seen their usefulness expire.  There are new technologies available now.  Do we still need this type of battery?  Can the company change over to modern times or must it go out of existence.

It always strikes me as innocuous that some people know instinctively that there is no such thing as global warming but regularly go to doctors and both follow their advice and take the medications prescribed.  They trust science and doctors to the point of putting their lives in their hands.  How can a belief in science exist on the one hand and instinct on the other?  These people have an interest in global warming not really existing.  Their interest is either profit from what they are producing and selling or in not wanting to be responsible for the social costs of their pollution.  Others, who indirectly benefit from these polluters like politicians or the company employees would also support this position.  Self-interest, either directly or indirectly, has strongly supported pollution.  Isn’t it time to pass beyond that point?

The basic point of this article is that it is time to include the social costs of all types of production in the manufacture of any item for sale or use by the society.  This may immediately raise prices but in the long run would result in   a healthier and far better functional society.  It would probably be less expensive this way.

 

 

Scientific studies on climate helped establish...

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