When discussing climate change two things need to be understood up front. The first is that the climate has changed, particularly over the past 40years in North Texas. Those old enough can remember the incredible ice storms that blanketed our region in the late Seventies and early Eighties; that doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. And second, mankind tends not to do anything about a crisis until it has everyone’s back against the wall.
America is a country that took great pride in pushing science and technology forward to improve our lives and our environment.And I personally agreed with the 54-mpg fuel efficiency standard for new automobiles instituted during the Obama administration;these things aren’t just good for the environment, they’re also brilliantly conceived ways to force businesses to position themselves for survival in the future.
After all, if you are a Baby Boomer you’ve seen Detroit nearly die twice. Once during the Second Energy Crisis, because they were still selling vehicles far less fuel efficient than their Japanese competitors’, and again during the Financial Meltdown. And here we can make a solid historical comparison:Before the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy law took effect in 1975, the Oldsmobile Toronado still came with a 455 cubic inch V-8 rated at 215 horsepower, down from 350 horsepower at the start of the Seventies due to the mandated emissions equipmentat the time. However, that 1974 Toronadoalso had an EPA fuel efficiency rating of just 5.9 miles per gallon and a 26.9 gallon gasoline tank. That’s right, if gas were $3 a gallon and you drovethat vehiclein town, it would cost $80 to fill up, and you’d have to do so every 158 miles.
If today’s full-sized SUVs had only 215 horsepower, deliveredonly 5.9 miles to the gallon, and got a pitiful 158 miles of range, market demand for those vehicles would hover near zero. Who can forget when Ford brought out its Excursion, the largest SUV sold in America; with its V-10 engine it got far less than 10 miles to the gallon in town. Which is why that Ford land bargesank in short order.
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In 1975 auto manufacturers were told to double the fuel efficiency of their fleet within 10 years, something they screamed and howled about, to comply with a federal mandate they in no way wanted. However, that goal was met in 1985; the prices of cars didn’t go through the roof, as they claimed would happen, and the following year Americans purchased 16 million vehicles for the first time in our history. Therefore, history shows that CAFE saved the American auto industryin that unsettled period.
More important, because the fuel efficiency of all vehicles doubled, drivers saved untold billions of dollars in fuel expenses. At least, when you take into account the improved fuel mileage’s offsetting the higher prices for gasoline along the way. And when vehicles get better mileage they put out fewer emissions, and that’s why the nation isn’t blanketed in a cloud of smog like it was in the Seventies. Things have improved to the point that the EPA’s website claims that burning a gallon of gasoline today creates only 8,887 grams of CO2 emissions, although over a year’s time that equates to 4.6 metric tons. (6.6 metric tons at 20 mph)
In summary, it is impossible to overstate the vast improvements in mileage and lower emissions from automobiles that have resulted from government mandates.
Global Warming. Oh, It’s On!
Now comes the newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which describes what our world will look like if temperatures warm by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That’s not the worst part; to hold it to just that temperature increase over the next 82 years we’ve got to ditch coal and other fossil fuels within the next few decades.And in addition to that massive shift in our economy and energy system, we must prepare to find ways to actually take the CO2 out of the atmosphere.
The report also states that the world has already warmed by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution started — but that’s an unfaircomparison without furtherexplanation.The Industrial Revolution was the shift tomachine manufacturing processes that took place between 1760 and 1820. Meaning, the Little Ice Age was still in effect.
Look, the Thames River in London was frozen over every winter and a Frost Fair was held on it. At the last one, in 1814, the ice was so thick they literally walked an elephant across the Thames. Galveston Bay froze solidly over in numerous years, including the winter of 1863 – 64, and again in 1899. LaReunion, the utopian socialist commune on the West side of the Trinity in Dallas, finally gave up and moved into town in 1856because in late May a blizzard hit and destroyed their crops.
Then again, that temperature climb as a result of the end of the Little Ice Age must have benefited mankind.After all, it had taken nearly 200,000 years for Earth’s population to grow to 1 billion humans,and it took only a couple of hundred years to hit 7.6 billion.
If you’ve followed this section so far, you can see the biggest problem with this Climate Report and most of the previous ones. There’s virtually no reasonable long termconsensus to what they claim are verified facts. Doubt that? On January 26, 1989, the New York Times ran a story under the headline, “US DataSince 1895 Fail to Show Warming Trend.”That article’s opening sentence reads, “After examining climate data extending back nearly 100 years, a team of government scientists has concluded that there has been no significant change in average temperatures or rainfall in the United States over that period.”
This is no different from the hundreds of published newspaper stories quoting scientists who saidthat global warming went into a pause in 1998 and remained there for well over a decade — and thensuddenly on June 4, 2015, the New York Times carried the story headlined, “Global Warming Hiatus Challenged by NOAA Research.” Really, for over a decade no one had any data that contradicted what many climate scientists and organizations were saying publicly about the pause in Global Warming?
Here’s another one. After the massive hurricane season of 2005, after Katrina slammed into New Orleans, another New York Times article started off with the line, “Let’s call this by its real name, Global Warming.” Which is no different from another article in the British Guardian on October 5, 2016 with the headline, “Hurricanes will worsen as planet warms and sea levels rise, scientists warn.” One would then assume that from 2005 to 2016,the most powerful hurricanes were “proven”to be caused by global warming. Except that on May 13, 2015, NASA had to respond to the fact that no major hurricanes of a category 3 or higher strengthhad hit the United States in nine years. That’s a historical record;it had never before happened, according to the records we’ve kept since 1850 on such storms.
The Impossible Takes a Little Longer
I’ve kept all these stories for decades, written about the contradictions many times. Like that 1989 New York Times story, using the government’s data to prove there was no significant warming. Yet today, allegedly using the same data, the planet has warmed substantially.
Yet in spite of all this confusion,our climate has changed. That’s undeniable. Personally I like the more moderate winters in North Texas, but I hear it’s playing havoc at the northern end of the planet. I deeply believe that improving the fuel efficiency and lowering the emission of automobiles benefits us all, just like when computer chips double their speed every 18 months. And we all waste fuel by either being stuck in traffic or driving at 80 miles an hour. And yes, I do both, too.
So far the auto industry, through hard fought research, has almost made smog a thing of the past andhas made our vehicles incredibly safe and unbelievably fuel efficient. And those three things you count on being a reality for the vehicle you own and the next one you purchase all happened because there was government law and mandate behind it. And yes, automakers complained every time a new mandate was put into place.
Jeremy Grantham, a famed investor in New England, a few years ago added his voice to our economic discussion, saying something to the effect of, we always discuss short-term goals on whether or not there’s enough oil and so on. We just aren’t looking far enough into the future. He postulated that a few hundred years from now, absolutely no one disagrees that there will be no more oil, coal, natural gas, iron ore or any other material to make things. What do we do then? That could also be the real point of climate change. No one doubts what happens in a couple of centuries.
Of course the real question, and the real answer, is,“What do we do now?”Because we’re responsible for the end date, not future generations.
Ed Wallace is a recipient of the Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism, bestowed by the Anderson School of Business at UCLA, and hosts the top-rated talk show, Wheels, 8:00 to 1:00 Saturdays on 570 KLIF AM. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org