Letter writer: Take path of caution and cut carbon emissions

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Contrary to what Michael Ivey wrote [“Climate-change Believers Betray Their Naiveté,” July 8, Xpress] in response to Anne Craig’s letter [“Local Group Lobbies for Climate Change Action,” June 24, Xpress], climate science is not “kindergarten stuff.” It is actually a very complex matter, and even a trained scientist could be forgiven for not understanding important aspects of long-term global climate dynamics.

One of the sources of complexity has to do with feedback mechanisms. Ivey points out that water vapor is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, and he’s right, though I’m unsure about his numbers. But more important than what percentage of all the greenhouse gases water vapor comprises is what percentage of the greenhouse effect is attributable to water vapor. Apparently it does contribute more than CO2 to the total effect: around 50 percent.

However, CO2 contributes as well, and the more CO2 we add, the more we increase the greenhouse effect. And the hotter these changes in CO2 make the planet, the more water is vaporized globally, further increasing the greenhouse effect. So the water-vapor effect is a positive feedback mechanism that is not under our control, which makes it that much more important to curb carbon emissions, which are.

I don’t understand all of the finer points of climate science, but there are some general principles that should guide us even in the face of uncertainty. One general principle that is clear from geological history is that complex systems like the atmosphere are not necessarily stable and are prone to “tipping points” due to positive (and negative) feedback mechanisms. In the distant past, such tipping points have led to several sudden changes that caused mass extinctions.

For this reason, we should take the path of caution and cut carbon emissions. The carbon fee and dividend system promoted by the Citizens Climate Lobby seems like a good way to do that.

— Jake Greear


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4 thoughts on “Letter writer: Take path of caution and cut carbon emissions

  1. jan freed

    The “carbon fee and dividend” solution makes enormous sense, supported by Noble economists ans conservatives like George Shultz and Henry Paulson!

    This way citizens would RECEIVE the carbon 
fees as a monthly check. That would cancel out the inevitable price spikes in dirty energy.

    Polluters PAY the fees, so it holds fossil fuel corporations personally responsible for the damages they cause, hundreds of billions of dollars per year. (Harvard School of Medicine and others)

    With this policy, the fee payments to citizens would be there for purchasing low carbon alternatives, which are growing rapidly. That would lower emissions, as it has in BC Canada with a similar policy. They also lowered taxes with their fees; it’s a popular policy.

    To those who reject the science: perhaps nothing will change
your mind. But what have you got against cleaner air, less asthma in our kids, fewer heart attacks, and more money in your pockets?

    To those accepting the science: Any effort and expense to
limit the problem of climate change is worth it. For example:
    A cost-benefit analysis has demonstrated that the cost of
sea level rise ALONE is so great that no expense to prevent it is unwarranted.

    Why even bother with the paid deniers who thrive on the
delay of a false debate? IMO we must take action and the way forward is to
support those in government who will act.

    • Jim

      Spoken with the same intellect and outcome that happened to smoking. Remember that it was for “health”. First is was isolated in a section. Next, completely outlawed indoors due to “enclosed” spaces and now it’s limited to back allies as to not be seen and set and to merely vilify smokers. LOL, no thanks to your dividend as all it does is raise my costs while simply shifting sales of energy overseas only to create the appearance of reduced emissions yet only affecting Americans who frankly are quite tired of the insane and “progressives”.

  2. Steffi Rausch

    Thank you Jake Grear for writing this! If you want to get involved with Citizens Climate Lobby we would like to welcome you to Asheville Chapter. You can follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ashevilleccl and signup for email updates there too. We would love to have your help and insight!

    • namewithheldbyrequest

      I concur wholeheartedly with your analyses, but I would add that also on a grassroots basis, many people are seeking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints on an everyday basis. A solitary person, commuting by vehicle, is a model of waste, inefficieny, and decadence. I’m not faulting those that do (I do it as well), just pointing out the that the means for alternative forms transportation are solely lacking in the Asheville. I would like nothing better than to commute by bicycle or to walk to complete some of my errands. With very, very few bike lanes and even fewer sidewalks, it makes these activities not only, near impossible, but dangerous. I live off Hendersonville Road and work close to the downtown area-have you driven on Hendersonville Road at 5:00 PM? Can you envision a bike commuter in that traffic snarl. When Asheville’s city’s fathers fail to invest in these basic infrastructures( bike lanes, sidewalks, expanded bus services), the city’s designation as a “Green City” or ” bike friendly” or any of the other like environmental awards, it reminds me of the Emperor’s New Clothes”- it’s an embarassment and dishonest-we can and should demand better!

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