Peter Powell

The writer and editor Gregg Easterbrook has a Law of Doomsaying, which is to predict catastrophe that will happen five to 10 years into the future with the idea that that is soon enough to terrify but distant enough that people will forget if you are wrong.

That was pointed out in a Feb. 15 Washington Post column by George Will. In that same column, Will also looked into the issue of global warming - or as we are calling these days, climate change - from a different perspective. He went back to media from the 1970s, less than 10 years before the global warming concerns arose in earnest. In general he found a number of publications predicting things like “a return to another ice age,” “the Earth’s climate seems to be cooling down,” and “cooling down about as fast as an ocean can cool.”

WHAT TO MAKE OF ALL THIS

So throughout the 1970s were predictions of global cooling, not global warming. Then within that five- to 10-year window, the whole thing shifted and all the concerns about global warming arose. It was those concerns that launched the end of CFCs, mandated no more venting of refrigerants, and required Environmental Protection Agency certification to work with refrigerants.

I confess to not remembering all that much about what the media was saying in the 70s about climate change. In those days, I was working for a daily newspaper covering school boards and trying to explain why homeowners’ school taxes were what they were. And frankly, I can’t remember if those days were colder or warmer than they are now - certainly, in my case, proof of Easterbrook’s “law” in terms of being distant enough for me to have forgotten what was being predicted in those days.

I have no idea how great scientific minds can shift thought processes so quickly. But I’ve been around long enough not to try to figure it out.

STUDYING UP

But as a writer of environmental matters, I do try to study up on the subject. Yet, the more I study issues related to climate change, the less I understand. That’s because for every respected person that takes one position, there is someone else equally respected with the opposite viewpoint. As much as we would like to latch onto the viewpoint of one authority, and base our beliefs on that view, it really can’t be done when it comes to climate change. There are too many voices saying too many different things to be sure of much of anything.

About the only thing I’m sure of is to discount predictions to the extreme while finding some validity in the more moderate views. By this I mean, don’t look at the absolute worst-case scenario for either global warming or global cooling and assume either is correct. Somewhere in between is the more accurate answer … I guess … but I’m not sure.

AT THIS POINT

But we have reached the point now where we need not debate whether or not the next ice age or global warming is coming. Maybe that’s why the new buzzwords are climate change. If the climate goes in one direction or the other to the extreme, it will be changed.

The emphasis we need to focus on is how the HVACR industry can provide solutions to dealing with climate change. Customers want comfort, cool offices and homes in the summer regardless of how much global warming is going on; and they want warmth in the winter regardless of how near the next ice age is. The food service sector wants coolers and freezers that protect food.

Our industry provides such values. And we try to do it in as cost-effective and energy-efficient way as possible. I don’t mean we should incorporate Law of Doomsaying into our marketing, but we can say that comfort cooling and heating, as well as refrigeration for food preservation, greatly helps everyone deal with climate issues.

Publication date: 04/06/2009