A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Turns out, Johnny Appleseed was an eco-terrorist

A while back, I had a brief email discussion with Jack Montag about the Kyoto protocols and the refusal of the U.S. to sign it. I fully approve of the decision, him not so much. It was interesting, and I think an important topic because I think energy policies, decisions, and technological breakthroughs are some of the most important issues in the world today. My biggest complaints with Kyoto are that it doesn't really do much to decrease warming, that we haven't proven even slightly convincingly that warming is bad, that China and India are exempted, and that the damage to the US economy could be substantial to no real purpose.

All of which points are reiterated by Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite authors, and an intelligent analyst on a variety of topics, in his recent post at The Ornery American. Card references an article in Scientific America (subscription required, sorry) that makes the case that the Earth should be cooling right now, perhaps enough to be of concern to all of us carbon-based life forms, but it isn't-- which may be a good thing rather than a bad thing. My favorite passage:

There are even suggestions that when human activities are sharply curtailed, the global climate begins to revert to its natural (based on solar radiation) ice-age climate. When the Black Death left Europe relatively depopulated and much land turned back into forest, there was a corresponding cooling of the climate. As the population bounced back and forest lands were again brought under cultivation, the temperature rose.

Sometimes one change in human behavior balances another. In America, for instance, vast regions that were once heavily farmed have reverted to forest, because it is now cheaper to grow all our grains in the midwest and ship them to the forested east and southeast. However, this has happened alongside a sharp growth in carbon dioxide emissions. So you could either say that forest regrowth has hidden the evil effects of industrialization -- or that industrialization has hidden the evil effects of reforestation.

Heh. Or, as Card argues in the next paragraph, maybe we should stop thinking about this in terms of good and evil and start actually compiling some data and doing some science. It's a thought.

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