Apr. 10, 2022

My Battle With The Climate Shaman

During my career as industrial designer and applications engineer, I have created and applied fossil fuel and waste-fired equipment for high temperature oxidizing and reducing processes within the hydrocarbon industry, healthcare industry and to generate power from waste.

When the first Kyoto accord on the state of our environment was released in the 1990's, I was elated because now having efficient, low-emission designs and equipment was very good for business. I became a big Al Gore fan.

Yet like so many others who stood to benefit from what I thought Kyoto meant, I did not bother to research the other side of the coin. There is always another side to the coin.

Business was great thanks to big Al but as the 21st century dawned, I noticed a subtle change in the industry; engineers and scientists with whom I 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 technologically or economically practical methods of greenhouse gas emission reduction that would meet the targets our governments were committing to.

As results from research along those lines began to pile up, I, we realized that the focus on Carbon dioxide (CO2) as a means to 'control climate' might be misplaced. Rather than focusing on Methane (C4) or Water (H2O) emissions, both of which are very efficient 'green-house gasses', Carbon dioxide was being used as a catalyst to drive whole scale industrial changes for no apparent reason.

These engineers and scientists were not arguing the fact that we dump chemicals into the atmosphere; they were arguing that the amount of anthropogenic Carbon dioxide, Methane and Water were not in sufficient quantities to impact the world to the extent the United Nations, and Al Gore were predicting.

Yes, humans generate green-house gases, but the earth generates 350 times that amount naturally, and that is without including volcanic activity, either on-shore or undersea, into the global atmospheric gas inventory.

Lack of science and common sense aside, there was still money to be made from adhering to the CO2 story. From a business point of view, I found myself positioned to benefit from things like ‘carbon-credits’ and green budgets which are foundations of a new economy. I wanted in on the ground floor.

Then one fall day in 2006, I sat down with a carbon emission broker from a European Union brokerage house who had stopped in Central Alberta along his junket through Canada. I and several carbon-curious investors had gathered to meet and hear good things from this broker.

He spoke eloquently and with an indistinguishable 'European' accent about both macro and micro aspects of the carbon economy. He described in some detail how a global collection of taxes from every sector of society would create funding to reach new paradigms in sustainable energy and about how several countries, including Australia had begun to collect those taxes from industry.

Soon, according to this gentleman, a 'carbon tax' would be applied to consumer products as well. Going forward, 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, new buildings and homes would not be supplied with natural gas or oil and would be outfitted with sensitive energy consumption meters and ‘smart’ appliances. A bit of data collected from almost everything and tied into a centralized yet global data base, disguised as helpful home technology and entertainment.

Within thirty years, he said, carbon fuels would be phased out and replaced with Hydrogen and Nuclear fuels. Investment in the oil and and gas industry was going to fall as moves would be taken to 'demonize' carbon fuels by government, media and academia. It was time for the investors in the room to adjust their focus from the oil industry to the carbon industry.

Our meeting lasted about an hour, not including the standing about for coffee and questions after his talk. It was an eye-opening, earth- shattering hour that had me re-thinking my unquestioning faith in what I believed to be a solid business model with the added benefit of helping to save the world, according to some.

Suddenly my willingness to live off of a lie had a price to pay that was greater than just a guilty conscience; no more investment money for my technology that generates CO2.

I had to get some air. After having taken my leave of everyone in the office I made it to the parking lot and lit a smoke, letting the cold air penetrate my jacket in the vain hope that I was sleeping, that this was all a bad dream and that I would snap out of it.

That was sixteen years and another lifetime ago. Into those years I’ve packed a lot of reading and research into organic chemistry and history to verify what my technical peers (and betters) had said years before; that "Carbon dioxide was being used as a catalyst to drive whole scale industrial changes for no apparent reason."

In that time I've absorbed much, but most importantly I've learned that there are no 'constants', I've learned that science was never meant to be 'settled' and I have learned that everything in nature is cyclical and self-regulating if you look at them over relevant time scales.

For instance, if you were watching the sun slowly set below the horizon for the first time and did not know that it would rise again in a few hours, it would be easy enough to convince you that the sun had disappeared forever and the world would end.

Similarly, primitive cultures were awed by an eclipse and it was only the 'shaman' among them that kept track of the sky over a long period of time that could take advantage of that knowledge. A few offerings of your valuables will bring the Sun back, he promised.

Far-fetched and primitive. We live in a modern society with advanced knowledge and sciences and could not possibly fall for the same shaman's tricks as primitive cultures have done.

We have more than 400,000 years of Earth temperature and atmospheric gas concentration history at our fingertips which show cyclical variations in both temperature and CO2 well beyond what we are experiencing today.

We know that ancient tropical forests grew well north of the equator and life forms flourished when CO2 levels were over 1000 ppm and temperatures many degrees higher than today. Heck, we inject CO2 into green-houses to improve plant and vegetable growth.

We also know that the Minoan and Roman eras a few thousand years ago were as warm as and warmer than today, but with a fraction of our global population and no industry (see top picture).

So why did I, we allow a guy using a data window of only 150 years scare us into believing that less than 500 ppm of CO2 and an extra two degrees will end the world as we know it?

Why do we continue offering up our valuables to this climate shaman in an effort to stop something that occurs naturally and is of benefit to humanity?

You could say that my battle with the shaman over Carbon Dioxide and Climate began on that fall day sixteen years ago and it has changed my life beyond recognition. When the whole world believes the shaman, the battle is hard but it must be fought.

Because the shaman has fought an information war, I respond with more information. Because the shaman has twisted the truth, I respond by offering what was always true before the shaman arrived.

It only takes a handful of people to recognize the shaman's tricks and he will have to flee the village. Maybe you are one who, by spreading the truth will help me kick him out of our village?