Climate Change | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 18 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: April 30, 2007

Climate Change

Department: Letters

In 1979, while every environmental organization was promoting coal instead of nuclear power as a source of energy, Environmental International, where I was the editor, prepared a 270-page issue on global climate change devoted to Nobel Laureate Willard Libby and Hans E. Seuss, who coined the term "greenhouse effect."

At the Institute for Regulatory Science (RSI), we have developed the concept of best available science (BAS) by classifying scientific information into proven, evolving, borderline, and pseudoscience. The changes in temperature and CO2 concentrations fall in the proven class. All predictive models fall into "extrapolation," a subset of evolving science with inherent uncertainties. In particular, the role of water vapor, a potent greenhouse gas, is associated with large uncertainties. Those who claim that man-made greenhouse gases are responsible for global climate change must concede that, except for mitigation, climate-change research funding should be entirely eliminated. Why should society fund proven science?

Much like water, CO2 is an essential foundation of the ecosystem. Carbon dioxide can also be a pollutant, although there is no known approach for establishing a concentration limit for it. Those of us who worried about global climate change long before the current advocates became vocal continue to recognize the need to control CO2 emissions globally. However, in less than a decade, China, and shortly thereafter India, will surpass the U.S. in CO2 emissions, and neither one is included in the Kyoto protocol.

Virtually all developing countries can improve their energy systems only once and not incrementally. Consequently, a cautious approach is necessary to reduce atmospheric emissions of CO2 by upgrading the current fossil-fuel power plants; promoting alternative sources of energy (primary choices are nuclear and wind with conservation as a supporting process); accelerating the agricultural production of ethanol, although the likelihood of substantial quantities of cellulosic ethanol in the near future is small; or accelerating the development of technologies for efficient energy production and providing the resulting technologies to developing countries quickly.

I suspect that those who promote the current advocacy mean well; however, global climate change is exceptionally complex. There should be no friend or foe. Instead of shouting, we in the scientific community should learn to listen.

A. Alan Moghissi
Alexandria, Va.

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