Letter: Global warming is the greatest problem mankind has ever faced

(Gary Kazanjian for The New York Times) One major contributor to climate change is the methane produced by farmed animals – mainly cows and sheep — as they digest their food.

The recent op-ed, “Some ESG thinking...,” by Aaron Breen used the death of the mighty Eastman Kodak Company to show what happens when companies fail to recognize the tide of new technology. Not only did Kodak pass away but typewriters and slide rules, much of the telephone system and many lessor businesses were upended in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.

After spending six years studying geology at the University of New Mexico, I went to work for Kennecott Copper and Rio Tinto in 1960. That was the beginning of the digital age. ESG might have helped some of those dying companies and Breen suggests that ESG could now help threatened companies to survive the greenhouse effect and global warming. Unfortunately, global warming is a little more complex than digital technology.

Global warming began about 10,000 years ago, when much of North America was under thousands of feet of glacial ice. Now most of the ice is gone and the sea level is up 300 feet. I do not know of a study that says that the natural warming trend has ended. Has it?

Human produced C02 by burning fossil fuels is generally assumed to be the cause of warming and the climate change that may be happening now. Climate change may bring about an enormous change in coal mining, the use of gasoline in automobiles and trucks, and the entire structure of fossil hydrocarbon use. We now have significant power produced by wind turbines and solar arrays, but we have not solved the problem of power supply when the sun does not shine, and the wind does not blow. We need better energy storage capacity or an alternate kind of generation: (nuclear? but what to do with radioactive waste).

Perhaps the biggest problem with reduction in human (anthropogenic) greenhouse gas is that the effect of C02 is less than half of the total effect of greenhouse gas released by human activity. The reason for this is that we release a lot of other gases, some of which have far more greenhouse effect, volume for volume, than does C02. For example, methane (natural gas) is many times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than C02 and it leaks from many sources of human activity; so, do several other gases.

Short version of story, global warming is the greatest problem mankind has ever faced.

Charles Phillips, Cottonwood Heights

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