Warming wisdom

The biggest problem I see with the media's reporting on the global warming debate is that they constantly and consistently conflate two separate issues — global warming and greenhouse gases. Global warming is a fact. It's measurable, as are its effects. The contribution of greenhouse gases to global warming, however, is much more debatable.

Global warming has many, many variables of which greenhouse gas is just one, yet almost all media treat global warming as if greenhouse gas and human contribution are solely responsible, and mix the two issues inseparably in their reporting. As a technical journal, please do not fall into that trap. Samuelson's quote is yet another example of this problem. I'm afraid that in the headlong rush to solely blame human activity for global warming, bad laws will be passed and much money will be spent unwisely for solutions that may be only marginally effective.

We may find, once the Chicken Littles have stopped screaming, that other factors are more largely to blame. I believe that the path to wisdom in this case lies with recognizing the difference between the two issues and constantly stressing that they are not the same.
Harry Andreas
Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Solutions, not SUVs

We're not “on the edge of imminent disaster,” we're already there. People are losing their land and livelihood. Animals are being made extinct. Helium is now rationed. Materials are running short.

Which part of “this planet is a finite size with finite resources” don't you understand as being related to our jobs as engineers? Maybe you should review the recent article in the magazine New Scientist about how many years supply of raw materials we have.

Perhaps these doubters could explain how burning millions of tons of coal and oil that use up yet more millions of tons of oxygen (remember, it is COk2) is sustainable. All my European magazines talk about what they are doing to solve the problem; over here all we get are reviews of 500 hp SUVs.
Chris Pollard
via e-mail

CNC's carbon footprint

CNC Software (Tolland, Conn.) has been aware of environmental issues for many years and the company has made several decisions to reduce our use of energy and resources. After renting offices in the early years, CNC built their first building in 1989, a 15,000 sq. ft., two-story building with a large passive solar wall and geothermal heating and cooling.

We outgrew the building in 1990 and built a 38,000 sq. ft. building across town, again with geothermal heating and cooling. We don't burn any fossil fuel directly. Although a geothermal system uses electricity, we use less fuel by taking heat or cold out of the earth right outside the building. We're in the process of adding a 13,000 sq. ft. addition and a 72,000 KW photovoltaic solar panel array that will provide about 25% of our total electricity. Additionally, each office has at least one window that opens and provides fresh air and natural light, so we rely less on artificial lighting.

We use mostly post consumer waste for our printing needs on less glossy, recycled paper that is fully compliant with the Forest Stewardship Council. Recycling is expected at the company and we have a team of six people that manage our composting process, rather than expecting the garbage truck to take organic material to the waste plant.

Many employees work at home rather than burning fuel to drive to work every day and our company Prius (hybrid) gets about twice the mileage of most cars. We also have a 300-gallon tank that holds biodiesel fuel for employees that wish to use it in their diesel vehicles. Finally, our 26-acre property is maintained without any chemicals or automatic watering systems.
Doug Nemeth
CNC Software Inc.

Chill out

Far too much is made over the global warming issue. I can remember 35 years ago that the same people were warning of the coming “Ice Age” and wanted government intervention. We should be responsible and use resources wisely. Why not more nuclear power plants to reduce the use of fossil fuels? The “Greens” would howl in protest, although they have no solutions except to reduce use. When we have an expanding population, HOW?

The earth goes through cycles without our input. It was much hotter back in 1000 to 1300 AD than it is now and we didn't have industrialization then. What about the dust bowl days in the 1930s? My advice on global warming is to “chill out” and don't make any stupid decisions.
Donald E. Dillard, P.E.
Marion, Ill.

Climate change FAQs

I work for a large company whose name you would recognize. Our transportation divisions try to make more efficient means to get people and stuff from one place to another. I'm not sure that helps as much as deciding whether or not things need to be transported at all. Do we really need to fly 747s full of cut flowers into this country every day? I believe we do many things to enhance efficiency, but it's dollar efficiency. That's not the same as responsible, efficient, or moral use of resources.

I get very tired of hearing uninformed opinion about climate change. From my perspective, anyone who wants me to treat their global warming opinions with respect should be able to answer a few questions:

  1. Name two major “greenhouse gases.”

  2. How do paleoclimatologists track the earth's temperature back 10,000 years or more?

  3. Name two factors involved in calculating the Milankovitch cycle.

  4. How do greenhouse gases theoretically cause climate change?

  5. The earth is warmed by sunlight and radioactive decay. How does the earth cool?

If someone can't answer four of these five correctly without consulting references, then he should admit his opinions on climate change are mostly political.
David Snoek
Hudsonville, Mich.

Hot topic

One of our July eNewsletters included a quote about the global warming debate from Robert Samuelson, an op-ed columnist for The Washington Post. Read his comments below and see the responses it generated. Feel free to share your own opinions next month by writing to msdeditor@penton.com.

“The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.”