Re: Gary Kump’s column on 4/2. My degree is in Chemical Engineering (MSU, ’78). I have 11 years in coal-fired electric generation, 24 years in oil and gas, and I offer these observations.
First, when Mr. Kump says carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is “only 0.04%” he is overlooking the effect tiny amounts of toxins have on health and the environment. Consider CO2’s evil cousin, carbon monoxide: 0.04% is life threatening in three hours. Hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas frequently found in gas and oil wells, at 0.05% is fatal in 30 minutes. Mr. Kump, if your jar of marbles were 10,000 vitamins and four cyanide capsules, how many times would you take a pill from it?
Second, I agree that global climate change cycles have and will continue to occur because of many variables. However, the driving force behind these cycles is shifting equilibrium. The “balance of nature” is real and vulnerable to outside influences. Since the mid-19th century, humans have been aggravating the natural carbon cycle with billions of tons per year of combustion products. According to NOAA, the Bakken oilfield released 275,000 tons of leaked methane in 2014, not only a significant source of pollution but a shameful waste of energy.
There are some encouraging statistics, however. According to the EPA, America’s gross Greenhouse Gas Emissions are essentially what they were in 1990 after peaking in 2005. Technology continues to make renewable energy increasingly cost effective, and vehicle emissions continue to decline.
Finally, I agree with Mr. Kump’s advice to “research the literature and look at dissenting opinions.” However, the statistics are complex and conclusions evasive. Motivations compete as developing nations modernize and society faces the drastic sacrifices some solutions call for. The arguments are passionate and some contain ulterior motives. My opinion is pragmatic and self-serving—climate change is real, regardless of the role we play in it. The oceans are rising, weather is more chaotic, and growing seasons swing wildly. We need to do something as individuals, as a nation, and as members of Homo Sapiens to mitigate our impact.
Ross Whelchel, Butte