Steve Goreham on the ups and downs of modern environmentalism

What are the pluses and minuses of environmental politics? Is the scientific community open to debate about climate change?

FLORIDA, December 15, 2012 — Global warming is one of those tricky subjects where scientific opinion can easily morph into religious doctrine.  

Taking this into account, it should come as no surprise that environmental politics are now an extremely important aspect of American life. What are the benefits and drawbacks of this? Is the scientific community open to diverse ideas about climate change? Of all the challenges that prevent the environment from achieving sustainability, which is the most pressing?  

In this second part of our discussion, climate researcher and writer Steve Goreham answers these most challenging questions. He also explains a bit about his life and career.

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Joseph F. Cotto: Across the world, untold millions are very nervous about global warming. Do you believe it really is the sort of threat that many perceive it to be? Why or why not? 

Steve Goreham: I think I’ve already answered the why or why not, so let me talk a little about the tragedy of Climatism. The tragedy of Climatism is a misallocation of resources on a vast scale. The world is spending $250 billion per year to try to “decarbonize” in a misguided fight against global warming. This is double the amount of total annual foreign aid. Over $1 trillion has been spent over the last 10 years, and the world is on course to spend another $1 trillion over the next four years on ineffective climate programs.

At the same time, about 20,000 die each day from hunger-related causes. More than a billion people are trying to survive on less than $2 per day. Two and a half billion lack adequate sanitation, 1.4 billion lack electricity, and almost a billion do not have access to clean drinking water. Every year, two million die from AIDS and almost two million die from tuberculosis. Malaria, pneumonia, and diarrheal diseases kill millions more. Suppose we stop the futile fight against global warming and switch billions toward solving the real problems of the world?

Cotto: Here in the United States environmental politics have become tremendously important. What, in your opinion, is one benefit and drawback of this?

Goreham: The benefit of environmental politics is that water pollution and air pollution in the United States is at its lowest level in more than 50 years. As a society, we’ve made tremendous strides in reducing our real air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, lead, and carbon particulates, along with cleaning up our lakes and rivers.

The big drawback is that many organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, now call carbon dioxide a pollutant. This is bizarre. Carbon dioxide is an odorless, harmless, colorless gas. It does not cause smoke or smog. We breathe in just a trace of carbon dioxide, but create CO2 as part of bodily processes, so we breathe out 100 times the level of atmospheric CO2 with every breath.

In fact, CO2 is green! Carbon dioxide is plant food. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies show that increased levels of CO2 cause plants to grow larger, with larger root systems, and bigger fruits and vegetables. If we could put one compound into the atmosphere that would be great for the biosphere, CO2 is that compound. Yet today every university, business, and community is working to reduce CO2 emissions.

Cotto: Your views are immensely controversial, needless to say. From your standpoint, is the scientific community open to diverse ideas about climate change? 

Goreham: I find that the scientific community is usually not very open to skeptical ideas about man-made climate change. Climate skeptics are labeled “deniers,” as in “holocaust deniers.” Most arguments against skeptical positions claim consensus, as in “97 percent of scientists agree with the theory of man-made warming,” or personally attack the skeptic as “a shill for energy companies,” rather than discuss the science. 

My presentations at colleges attract strong student interest, but these presentations are usually sponsored by the economics departments. My requests for a debate on the science of global warming with science departments have been turned down by ten different universities in the Midwest.

Cotto: During the years ahead, what do you think that the greatest challenge will be to environmental sustainability?

Goreham: Sadly, one of the greatest challenges to the environment is radical environmentalism itself. I’ll give you three examples. First, Climatism and the environmental movement have convinced nations to try fill the world with wind turbines and solar fields. These energy sources are dilute, intermittent, costly, and require backup from traditional hydrocarbon sources. They require 75 to 100 times the land of conventional power plants in the case of solar, or 200 to 250 times the land in the case of wind. Why is using huge amounts of land with wind and solar more sustainable than coal, gas, or nuclear plants, which have a much smaller footprint? Let’s make the sensible choice and leave more land for nature.

The second example is biofuels. Biofuels have been labeled “renewable” and “sustainable” and were thought for many years to be a transportation solution for global warming. But recent scientific studies show that combustion of biofuels releases more carbon particulates, ozone, and sulfur oxides than combustion of gasoline or diesel fuel. Further studies show that biofuels even release more carbon dioxide when land use changes are taken into account. Biofuels have also boosted global food prices and resulted in cultivation of more land and the cutting of forests in Indonesia and elsewhere. Yet the EPA and European Union still continue to push biofuels as a solution to global warming.

A third favorite of environmental groups is organic farming. Organic farming has lower yields and therefore requires more land than traditional agriculture, with no additional nutritional value. To the extent that organic farming is employed, more land will be needed for agriculture, leaving less for nature.

Cotto: Now that our discussion is at its end, many readers are probably wondering how you came to be a voice in the climate change debate. Tell us a bit about your life and career. 

Goreham: I’m a former electrical engineer and business executive, with 30 years of experience at Fortune 100 and private companies in the electronics industry. I’m married and a father of three. I joined the climate debate to add my voice to those fighting for sound climate science and sensible energy policy. I’ve written two books, including my latest The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism:  Mankind and Climate Change Mania. I’m now a full-time speaker and writer on environmental issues.

Also, despite hundreds of accusations that I must be “in the pay of the energy companies,” I have never received any payment, funding, or salary from any energy company or any organization with a vested interest in the debate.


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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