I shudder to think of who is teaching our kids in Wake County, but this science teacher is at least one. In response to my column on renewable energy, the Monsieur Denis Dubay PhD criticizes a couple of tertiary points:
”Max Borders missed some key points in his July 12 Point of View piece about N.C. Senate Bill 3. Despite Borders’ claims to the contrary, green energy has significant environmental benefits. It reduces our use of coal, the dirtiest fuel we have, to produce electricity. If we paid all the health and environmental costs of mining and burning coal in our electric bill, coal would likely be more expensive than the renewable alternatives, solar and wind.”
A science teacher making Pigovian arguments? Probably not a good idea: First of all, particulate and other pollutants are at record lows. The EPA is having continuously to lower the standard to keep themselves in jobs. I defy the good Dr. Dubay to explain, much less calculate, what would constitute a Pigovian cost associated with coal burning—and show me how it would make renewables more cost-effective…particularly in light of how little pollution there is. Good luck with that. And by the way, if he thinks that the purported harms of climate change caused by carbon should factor into that, I defy him to prove to me that climate change, if true, would result in a net negative for the planet. How does he, or Gore, or anyone else know that things wouldn’t be better with a warmer planet?
"Borders suggested that changes in the sun’s brightness may cause global warming. [He picks on my parenthetical] Climate scientists considered this, and the best evidence indicates that changes in the sun’s intensity might be responsible for 10 percent to 30 percent of recent warming, which leaves carbon dioxide from our burning of coal and oil to account for the remaining amount."
I’ve seen Scafetta and West’s calculations and they do estimate 10-30 percent of recent warming could be a result of brightness. Of course, none of this is accounted for in the IPCC models. Dr. Dubay neglects to mention debates about the potential influence of cosmic rays and sunspot activity, much less global warming on nearby planets. But even if 70 percent of warming is caused by the greenhouse effect (which is doubtful in light of other, larger warming periods that occured prior to anthropogenic GHG releases), why does he think that a mere 7-12 percent – of a portfolio standard that includes burning hogshit and wood – would make a significant difference?
"Borders states that using wood and agricultural wastes as substitutes for coal and oil would not reduce carbon emissions. Burning carbon-based fuels does indeed release carbon dioxide; however, the carbon in wood and agricultural waste was only just recently taken out of the atmosphere during photosynthesis. Burning coal and oil introduces "new" carbon into the atmosphere, carbon that until it was brought to the surface in coal mines and oil wells was buried for many millions of years deep within the Earth.”
Old CO2, new CO2… what’s the difference? And if higher concentrations of CO2 aren’t likely to cause much of any greenhouse effect (according to scientists like Lindzen) – and it’s the net levels we’re talking about – let’s not confuse the issue with old and new–at least not without more qualification than can be offered in a letter to the editor.