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Green debate revolves around use of convenient facts

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2013

By Philip J Milton

Comments (2)

There have been the odd letters (meaning occasional but sometimes odd as well...) about climate change but one thing puzzles me and perhaps a chemist or physicist can help me – and translate the emotion so often perpetrated by the zealots!

If global warming is happening and the polar ice caps are melting, this should mean the salinity in seas decreases as dramatically as all that extra fresh water and greater rainfall from rising temperatures are added. Salt reduces the heating point of water therefore increases 'thermal expansion' caused by heat. Therefore is the opposite happening and reduced sea salt levels offsetting the other? How many millimetres has the sea level risen in say the last fifty years?

I believe in climate change. It's been happening since climate and planet existed. I believe mankind impacts climate change – both negatively and positively but also that it is arrogant for us to think we are so influential on it compared with natural events. A volcanic eruption has far more impact than any coal-fired power station. We talk of rain forests being destroyed but we don't talk about the carbon-absorbing reforestation happening in many places – like the UK which now has its greatest tree cover since before King Henry VIII we are told. I heard that the planet is about 20% greener than it was – but how such statistic is collated and against what it is compared I don't know but it does follow though – the more CO2 then the more plants as that is their 'food'!

We are oft presented with the 'facts' but there is so much bias it is untrue – the same as the 'facts' in the early 1980s when the fear then was for another ice age. Facts which are inconvenient are avoided and those which endorse a prejudice promoted and by scientists who should know better.

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It is a great shame that the debate cannot be better conducted for everyone's benefit and those exploiting present fears for their personal benefit coming clean about that too, whatever arm of alternative technology, charity or government organisation paying them handsomely or subsidising their product or calling.

Yes, we should recycle our valuable resources and should always have been doing so as it is wasteful not to do so, as well as recognising that putting things in the appropriate recycling bins is not careful use of commodities in this throw-away society.

We should use energy wisely and insulate better and yes, look at alternative energy but one thing so many overlook is that the scarcest resource of all is cash and it should be spent wisely and efficiently. Spending £100,000 on a government/ charitable green energy project to 'save' £1,000 pa of electricity is not a good spend compared to how the money could really be directed for the betterment of the planet and its inhabitants for now and the future, if we truly believe in doing the most constructive thing towards that goal. Wasting cash so wantonly is worse than wasting a little bit of energy – private individuals should consider the same argument when considering the cost and return of their own alternative energy producing investments and if it is just to go green, giving money under Gift Aid towards research charities is likely to be the best use of the money!

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  • letigre  |  December 11 2013, 2:28PM

    You may find this link interesting: http://tinyurl.com/nw4qj6m There are many aspects of the climate change debate which chemists and physicists struggle with. Personally as an engineer it is the physics and mechanical aspects such as man-made global warming heat hiding at the bottom of the ocean or back radiation of CO2 which make no sense. Some of this is tantamount to teaching people that 2+2=5. Plus of course the complete irrelevance the sun seems to have been given, which all make the whole debate interesting. But I totally agree, having this debate without emotion seems hard when debating with non-scientists. If the ice caps have melted to the extent they are supposed to have done, where is the catastrophic sea level rise? Why did Al Gore buy a waterfront complex? Climate change happened long before us and will continue to happen long after us. That does not of course mean we shouldn't be respectful of any environment or resource we have on the planet. But the wanton destruction of forests or peat bogs (Carbon sinks in Scotland) to make way for vast energy projects can not be justified from a climate change angle in my view.

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  • NiCuCo  |  December 10 2013, 8:12PM

    Philip, good questions. "If global warming is happening and the polar ice caps are melting, this should mean the salinity in seas decreases as dramatically as all that extra fresh water..." Yes, the salinity decreases. That effect is only local, near where the ice is melting, as the huge amount of ice on the planet is dwarfed by the volume of the ocean. In Antartica, the melting land ice is making the nearby sea water less saline, raising its freezing point. This is part of the reason, the other reason is onshore winds, that warming in the Antartic is increasing Antartic sea ice. "and greater rainfall" The increase rainfall has little effect on ocean salinity, as the increased rainfall is caused by increased evaporation from the sea. Just to give you a sense of scale, the amount of water in the atmosphere is about equal to nine days of world-wide precipitation. "Salt reduces the heating point of water therefore increases 'thermal expansion' caused by heat." I am not sure what you mean by "heating point of water." As with dissolving anything in a liquid, the more you add, the lower the freezing point. The heat capacity of sea water (how much heat has to be added to heat a certain amount of water a certain number of degrees) is about 92% that of pure water. Changes in salinity have a minute effect on the amount of expansion of the oceans caused by global warming. I am a chemist and graduate school was over thirty years ago. I had never considered the effects of the concentration of a material dissolved in a solution and the solution's heat capacity. Thanks for getting me to look at that.

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