Yet it’s not because I don’t believe we are harming the environment…
During my career as industrial designer and applications engineer for international and north American firms, I have applied fossil fuel and waste-fired heating processes which operate in the upstream (down-hole), midstream (upgrading and transport) and downstream (refining and by-products) phases of the hydrocarbon industry. In that time, while not building low-emission burners and high efficiency heaters I have chased acidic SO2 (sulphur dioxide) plumes along Canada’s eastern seaboard, monitored gas plant and refinery emissions through the mid-western US and Canada and even contributed paragraphs to the US, EPA documents regarding hazardous wastes during the mid 1990’s.
When the first Kyoto accord on the state of our environment was introduced, I was elated because now having low-emission designs and equipment was very good for business. Like so many others who stood to make money on Kyoto, I did not bother to research the other side of the coin. There is always another side to the coin. Then, as the 21st century dawned, I noticed a subtle change in the industry; engineers and scientists with whom I had worked and whose opinions I respect, started to turn away from the initial exuberance of the accord. They were for the most part, unable to find sufficiently practical methods of greenhouse gas emission reduction that would meet the proposed targets, and for many, unable to justify using CO2 as a catalyst for such fear mongering and diversion of funds.
These engineers and scientists were not arguing the fact that we dump CO2 into the atmosphere; they were arguing that the amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, methane and water vapour, human emissions, were not in sufficient quantities to make any real difference. Sure humans generate green-house gases, but the earth generates 350 times that amount naturally, and that is without large volcanic eruptions either on shore or undersea.
I was clinging to a ‘Gore’ philosophy and I was crestfallen. Giving up the impetus of saving the world through my low emission designs was just too hard to bear, never mind the thought of a new, ‘carbon’ economy that loomed on the horizon. From a business point of view, I found myself positioned to benefit from things like ‘carbon-credits’ and green budgets; until I sat down with a carbon emission broker from a European Union corporation who had stopped along his junket through Canada.
It was a snowy autumn afternoon in a central Alberta office where I and several carbon-curious investors had gathered to meet and hear good things from this broker. He spoke eloquently and with an indistinguishable accent about both macro and important micro aspects of the carbon economy. About how a global collection of taxes from every sector of society would create funding for new methods of using and producing energy and about how several countries, including Australia had begun to collect those taxes from industry. Soon, according to this gentleman, every business, factory, building, man, woman and child would be audited for their carbon footprint, in order to clarify a base-line, from which periodic auditing would identify increases or decrease in taxable carbon emissions. In countries that signed onto this new economy, buildings and homes would be outfitted with sensitive energy consumption meters and ‘smart’ appliances that would all be tied into a centralized but global tax and information collection machine, disguised as helpful, home technology and entertainment.
Our meeting lasted about an hour, including the standing about for coffee and questions after his talk. For me, it was an eye-opening, earth- shattering hour that had me re-thinking my unquestioning faith in what I believed to be a business model that would save the world, not enslave it. In that hour I had gone from wishing that I were a hybrid of Gore and Trump, to praying that I might become a hybrid Che Guevara and Ghandi, so appalled was I by this Orwellian vision to which I was contributing. I had to get some air. After having taken my leave of everyone I made it to the parking lot and lit a smoke, letting the cold air penetrate my jacket in the hope that I would regain the mind set that I’d started the day with.
That was five years and another lifetime ago. Into those five years I’ve packed a lot of reading and research, proving to myself at least, that everything in nature is cyclical if you look at it at the right scale. Gathering useful operational information from a refinery furnace, our sun, or any continuous process, either natural or man made, for the purpose of determining the efficiency of that process requires many points of data. Many recordings of a process temperature and gas composition for example, taken over a long period of time gives not only the clearest view of your process operation, but the longest view over which time you can spot trends and cycles.
What would happen if you only looked at a process over a few hours and tried to base a years worth of operating data on that few hours of collecting information? You would be painting a picture of that process in what might be an upswing or a downturn in its operation, but you would never know what the entire range of that process is; only that it was particularly hot and getting hotter during those few hours, or that it was cool and getting cooler. If I were to pull a stunt like that in my field, I would upset an entire refinery and/or waste millions of dollars in unnecessary equipment upgrades and operating costs.
Yet this is exactly what is happening in the push to introduce a carbon economy; we are being told that one hundred or one thousand years of environmental data must speak for several million years of environmental operation. We are being told that the rising process (Earth) temperature is cause for alarm when in actuality the process temperature fluctuates up and down quite regularly, if you look at the trend over a longer period of time. Same thing with the composition of our atmosphere, the amount of water, carbon dioxide, methane and other components vary widely over time, but they generally vary together in a predicable pattern.
Now before you go off half cocked and question my sources and sanity, I urge you to do some homework and look at the results of ice core and ocean-floor drilling core samples. There are repeatable data going back hundreds of thousands of years, if not close to a million years, which show many cycles of warm and cold have come and gone: cold ice ages and warm interglacial periods, like the one we have been living in for the past twelve thousand years, give or take a thousand. Have our human emissions affected the process? Sure they have, but to think that we are driving the temperature curve of the planet is preposterous in the face of aeons of information that incidentally suggest that we will be entering a new ice age before long.
I will continue to work with new technology in my field, in an effort to limit our impact on this world and I am moving into the field of desalination, because if you look around, you will realize that water is fast becoming the new oil. I will also be investing in some new snow shoes.
US Geological Survey, Impact of Volcanic Gasses on Climate, the Environment and People http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1997/of97-262/of97-262.html
Historical Climate Models. Use this as a primer and follow up the sources you find on this site.