Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Killer Fog and Environmental Common Sense

The Obama administration has invested a lot of effort in pushing climate change legislation in Copenhagen, even as the "Climategate" scandal continues to cast doubt on the entire scientific foundation of the "climate control" movement. How much do the proponents of global arming legislation even believe in what they tell the world what must be done. The New York Times reports as follows about Mike Bloomberg, a loud and leading proponent of global warming.

"Mr. Bloomberg owns a helicopter and two jets, both Falcon 900s. He flies everywhere on private jets, by far the least efficient form of transportation on or above the earth. He takes his jet to Bermuda many weekends. He has flown around the globe on it. He uses it to go to Washington. He is planning to get to Copenhagen for the climate conference by private jet, too.

The carbon math works out like this: by taking his Falcon 900 to Denmark, Mr. Bloomberg will be responsible for the release of 37 times the carbon dioxide than if he and his entourage flew on a scheduled commercial flight. The calculations were done at my request by Dimitri Simos, the developer of software used by the airline industry to assess aircraft emission and performance. Mr. Simos said that a Falcon 900 carrying eight people from Newark to Copenhagen would produce 21.6 tons of carbon dioxide. By adding eight people to the scheduled Scandinavian Airlines flight, the aircraft, usually an Airbus A330-300, would produce an additional 0.58 tons of carbon dioxide.

Mr. Bloomberg’s routine trips to Bermuda are even more carbon costly: the private jet produces 130 times more emissions than going commercial. On those jaunts, Mr. Simos said, the Falcon produces 4.3 tons of carbon dioxide; putting another two people on an American Airlines Boeing 757-200 that flies to Bermuda would produce only 66 more pounds. "

The expounds at length about those who preach conservation to everyone else while they cut themselves as much slack as they need to be comfortable.

A look back at the latter half of the 20th century shows how far the industrialised world has come. When I was a child, the Charles River, which went through Boston and a long string of its suburbs, was choked with industrial pollution. When I used to fish there, it was mostly carp and an occasional eel that would give us any attention. I remember stabbing the muck with a stick and oily rainbows coming up that seemed strangely beautiful. In the 1960's and 1970's volunteer cleanup efforts along with environmental legislation healed the sick river to the point that many species of fish started actually returning.

In the US was the infamous Donora, Pennsylvania killer smog which sickened thousands and killed 20 people during a week in Donora Pennsylvania. So dense was the smog that it turned day into night in the small town of 14,000 residents.

This was of course dwarfed by the infamous London killer fog, which from December 5 to December 9, 1952 turned day to a plague of sooty darkeness, killing thousands and sickening many more. NPR reported as follows on the 50th anniversary of the natural disaster, during which the smoke crept into people's houses.

"Cribb remembers being stunned by the blackness of the gathering fog. After a few minutes he couldn't see the curb from his spot behind the wheel. After a few more minutes, Tom Cribb got out and started walking in front of the hearse, to keep his nephew on the road. He carried a powerful hurricane lantern in one hand, but it was useless.

"It's like you were blind," says Cribb.

Everyone in London walked blind for the next four days. By the time the smog blew off on Tuesday Dec. 9, thousands of Londoners were dead, and thousands more were about to die. Those who had survived no longer spoke of London's romantic pea-soup fog.

As the smoke coming out of London's chimneys mixed with natural fog, the air turned colder. Londoners heaped more coal on their fires, making more smoke. Soon it was so dark some said they couldn't see their feet.

By Sunday, Dec. 7, visibility fell to one foot."

It was disasters like these that were beyond the question of debate. Everyone with eyes and working lungs could see the havoc wreaked by pollution. Since then, treading softly and reducing pollution has changed the face of our cities.

What remains to be done? What health challenges are there in our daily lives? Industrialisation, and improved transportation have taken physical challenges out of our lives that once kept us healthy. When I did warehouse work, there was no need to exercise. It was built into my day. City living and modern conveniences are taking away opportunities to burn calories that make formal exercise a necessity.

One answer to this would be to encourage bicycle riding. The problem with this is that right now, there is an inadequate sense of responsibility among cyclists, who sometimes cause injuries to pedestrians and accidents involving cars. Licensing, insuring and traffic enforcement for bicycles should accompany any effort to promote their use. Unregulated bicycles could become a real hazard.

Aside from any considerations of clean energy, diversification of energy sources makes economic and political sense. An eclectic mix of solar, petroleum, wind and fossil fuels should be a high priority. A good part of our weakened dollar is due to balance of payment problems created by imported fossil fuels. This is plain obvious common sense that does not have to be proven with skewed data from some "climate control unit".

The whole idea that we can "control " the climate reeks of arrogance. There is no question that we have the ability to create spectacular disasters. But it would be far more sensible to view ourselves as an influence rather that the controllers of the earth's climates.

Awareness and education is the best preparation for a healthy population. Smoking has dropped due to education. Eating habits change in response to education. Making nutritional information available in restaurants as well as groceries is an important step in promoting healthy choices. It would be wise to promote fast foods that are also healthy foods. I have restaurants that I go to which are very cooperative in providing me useful information for menu choices that are suitable for diabetics.

If there is one motto that humans should have in taking care of the earth it would simply be to "tread softly". We should consider the effects of our actions and our lifestyles on planetary health. Some of what needs to be done involves individual choices. Other desirable courses of action involve industry.

It is far more efficient for private enterprise to seek solutions to planetary and personal health issues. A business that is losing money will change course a lot more quickly and efficiently than will the government. Wherever possible, the role of government should be to facilitate and not to compel.

A holistic approach to environmental issues will involve considerations of national economic health. Such an approach can and should make the business world and those who seek to protect the environment natural allies.

It would be good to see recognition of what we have accomplished as a species and how we can build on these accomplishments. I do not see such common sense emanating from Copenhagen. And that is a pity.

The video below is the opening segment of a documentary on You Tube about the 1952 Killer London fog. The entire seven segmants can be viewed on You Tube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUQ9tPc8YbM Sphere: Related Content

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