Email to Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO
Benefits of Climate Change
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20120628        Science (Climate Change)

From: Scott Sinnock, 6:25pm, June 28, 2012
Subject: Benefits of Climate Change

Summary: Challenge the universities to identify benefits of climate change, How can they refuse? Discussion follows.
I read a short, insulting summary of your position of "so what?" with respect to global warming in the Chicago Sun Times today, page25, headline "Oil CEO: No Climate Fear". You said, at least you were quoted as saying, we will be able to adapt. Completely true. I think you are half way to the answer. The "so what?" of your position is cogent and politically ripe. But I suggest it is not only "so what"; it is rather "hurray": food production will increase, heating bills will decrease, summer baseball games can be played under the lights longer, fewer children will die of exposure to the cold, many more than will die from increased exposure to the heat, Chicago will experience more pleasant Springs like the last one, maybe even California coastal waters will warm up enough to make the Pacific ocean swimmable, (though I doubt this last one), and 1000's more.

Winners as well as losers.

We WILL adapt, as everything will, the ecosystem included, its been adapting for billions of years, in fact it never stopped. Changes in climate and other environmental factors like wealth have consequences. There will be winners; there will be losers, as has always been and will always be. The "climate change", people, I believe, are on a power crusade, including their scientific cheerleader the IPCC. They want to stop economic development because they think it evil. They are modern day Luddites. Be that as it may, they are also powerful.

To illustrate, for some time now, I have been systematically reviewing my small corner of the scientific literature (American Scientist, National Geographic, and the newspaper), small but representative I think. An amazing fact stands out. In the last 2 years, NOT ONE benefit of climate change has ever been mentioned. Negative effects are listed at length, calling on images of polar bear cubs swimming, perhaps in a zoos' pool, and intoning that these poor cubs may die because they have much farther to swim when the ice melts because of the evil carbon burners. It tears at your heart, but insults your mind. That may happen; maybe polar bears will continue their rapid pace toward extinction, perhaps even influenced by world climate (note, I don't use "world climate change" because that would be redundant, world climate IS change). The Maldives and Bangladesh may flood more often, as though they don't flood every year anyway, and always have. Corals in Belize may not grow as well and tourists might stay away, preferring Cancun instead where the coral will grow even better. By focusing ONLY on the losers, and just the POTENTIAL losers at that, a very distorted picture of likely changes is being systematically pounded into our heads by every press outlet, scientific and otherwise.

This is not science, this is politics. Scientists, and I am one, a geologist, '78 Purdue, take a disinterested view of everything they apply their science to, or so they say they do, or so they claim others should do. But what about benefits. In things as drastic as climate change that affects everything, there will be many, many changes, responses, migrations, feedback loops causing more changes, causing more adaptation causing more changes. To somehow claim that all these changes will be bad and so we must do everything we can to stop the change is absurd, Absurdity comes from deception and ignorance. I find it interesting that the "liberal" side is associated with "stop climate change", a RADICALLY conservative position. I am somewhat distressed discussing climate with my associates. People are shocked, even insulted when I suggest it might not be all bad, but quickly see that, indeed, it might not be. The crusaders are powerful, they have convinced my dear sister that evil lurks in climate change.

So, what WILL be "good" about global warming. For starters, all maps I have seen predict temperature and precipitation increases in the mid- to upper-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the great breadbasket of the world. So one obvious consequence of global warming, it seems to me, is an increase in food production capacity; more warmth, longer growing seasons, more water, large land area, and voila, more food, or the same food cheaper, so healthier babies if population stabilizes, more lovable babies if not. Of course farmers in southern Oklahoma might want to plant one or more of the drought-resistant crops so fervorishly being developed in biolabs all over the world. Despite inevitable advances in genetic engineering, Oklahoma farms might lose some money-generating capacity from the produce of their farms, but those in North Dakota and Saskatchewan should see their yield per acre increase, in unsubsidized dollars. The net effect I think would be increased food production. Life likes warmth, especially warmth with more water, and, OF COURSE, with higher temperatures, more water will circulate in the hydrologic cycle. Patterns will shift, some will win, some will lose, as they will with or without carbon emissions.

Another example benefit includes opening of the northwest passage. Here I should retract my previous statement, because I have seen that "benefit" listed in the popular press but not in the scientific literature. However, even then, the "benefit" was immediately followed by discussion of the increased likelihood of oil spills in the fragile arctic caused by greedy corporations. The forces that drive the "climate" debate are purveyors of ignorance, some to enhance their power, some because they have been duped.

In summary, I have a suggestion to counter those forces. Truth. Let's turn the genius of "disinterested science" lurking in our universities loose on identifying potential benefits as well as costs of likely and other climate scenarios. How can we make informed decisions if the universities, our publicly funded repositories of knowledge, will not inform us of the range of likely consequences? It seems science is not doing its job of presenting benefits and costs to the political decision makers, instead science seems intent on manipulating the debate. I am very sad about this as scientist. I think this will be the worst "black eye" science" has ever had. In the meantime they carry the day, at least in many and growing circles. I believe if people were presented with even some of the myriad likely benefits of global warming, economic as well as life style benefits, the political situation could change in a hurry. I think it already is moving toward your "so what?" position, based in part due to your leadership.

You have the power I don't, I suggest a political strategy that challenges the universities to uphold their own ideals, to objectively identify potential benefits as well as costs of global warming. How can they refuse? Except by saying such benefits don't exist or at least are minor, which is of course absurd.

You have thw power. Put the question to the universities and watch them squirm, but eventually they MUST at least answer the inquiry, "Is it possible that world food production might increase under plausible climate change scenarios?" for a starter. I think much "university" political correctness is just from habit and lack of attention. Many, even most scientists and others in the university want to be objective and disinterested in their research. They are just are victims of "group think", as we all are. This simple question might just be a wakeup call for those honest scientists, while the power players will cry foul.

You have the power. Ask the question, it might shake things up a little. Benefits, who can be first to publish one, get the race going.

Oh, by the way, I believe we should save our carbon for its chemistry, and burn uranium, thorium, and potassium for energy, but we have time to make the transition and still preserve a large hydrocarbon inventory. In the meantime, carbon emissions WILL increase, so if they indeed are causing a world temperature rise, of which I am yet to be convinced though a good case has been made, crying "stop" is jousting at windmills.