The Climate Alarmists’ Gross Perversion of the Word Clean
Climate alarmists have gone to endless efforts to gain public acceptance of their doomsday premise that the world must greatly reduce its use of fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. They have fudged the surface temperature data, used meaningless climate models, argued that human emissions of carbon dioxide will warm the planet despite the strong evidence to the contrary, and so on, but their greatest perversion is of the English language. They have branded CO2 as a pollutant and claimed that reducing it is necessary to make the world “clean.” All the alarmists from Gore to McKibben to Obama are guilty of this; in fact, the use of this terminology is so uniform that one suspects that they all have been coached to say it at every opportunity. Unfortunately, their efforts have even been supported by the Supreme Court, which decreed that CO2 is subject to regulation by the USEPA under the Clean Air Act despite no real support for this in the legislative history. The Alarmists’ Biggest Propaganda Weapon Since no one is opposed to something being clean, this is by far the alarmists’ biggest propaganda weapon. They have eagerly seized it and are running with it as hard as they can, despite its inapplicability in this case. They often combine it with the additional adjective “renewable” and refer to wind and solar-generated energy as “clean renewable” energy. CO2 emissions from using fossil fuels to generate energy, on the other hand, are characterized as “dirty” even though they are invisible, so cannot be perceived as clean or dirty by anyone. But how can they get by with such a gross perversion of reality and the language? Plants must have adequate levels of CO2 in order to live, and have been shown to grow better with higher atmospheric levels; if they all die, Earth will become a truly dirty, lifeless landscape with endless piles of blowing sand and dirt and starving humans. Plants came close to mass starvation during the last ice age because of the low levels of CO2. CO2 is essential for plants and indirectly for animals. Why Wind and Solar Are Actually Very Dirty So the alarmists are actually arguing that life on Earth should be dirty and plants must be allowed to die in order to keep life-giving atmospheric CO2 levels down. The alarmists’ favored means for reducing CO2 emissions actually have many important dirty aspects such as bird and bat kills, rare earth mining, hideous wind and solar plants spread over huge areas, and difficult and slow removal of abandoned windmills and solar facilities after the subsidies are cut. This does not make CO2 reduction “clean”; it makes it anti-environmental, anti-poor people, and ultimately “dirty.” But there is no rational basis that anti-environmentalist actions are “clean.” As Matt Ridley has recently observed: As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale, which is why the phrase ‘clean energy’ is such a sick joke and ministers should be ashamed every time it passes their lips. It gets worse. Wind turbines, apart from the fiberglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy. A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output. The time has come for climate skeptics to actively claim their rightful ownership of the word “clean” when discussing climate rather than allowing climate alarmists to do so.
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