Peter Powell

My April 6 column on why it doesn’t matter whom to believe in the climate change debate touched off a bit of e-mail dialogue between several writers and myself. In that column, I cited some research from the 1970s predicting global cooling, then noted that the focus shifted more to global warming in the 1980s.

“How could that happen?” I asked, then indirectly answered the question by saying it didn’t matter because the HVACR industry for the most part has accepted global warming as a reality and is trying to do its part to curtail any negative impact the industry might have on the situation, as with leak tight systems and energy efficiencies.

One e-mailer said, “It is refreshing to see someone who can put things in perspective.” But while I was humbly taking bows in front of a mirror as a result of that kudo, another e-mail came saying the mere fact I dredged up all that global cooling predictions from the ’70s means I was “doing readers a disservice” because I “perpetuate a myth.”

That writer then later sent me an article from the May-June 2009 issue of a publication called Skeptical Inquirer in which a commentator by the name of John Fleck debunked those global cooling arguments from the 70s. He said he and a climatologist did “a comprehensive survey of the scientific literature of the time.”

He noted, “Like all good misinformation that travels well and last long, we found a kernel of truth. But we also found the deep foundations on which the now widely accepted hypothesis of greenhouse-induced anthropogenic effect was based.”

In effect, he was saying that while there were those raising global cooling arguments in the 70s, there were even more leaning toward global warming concerns at the same time.

The author said the research he and his colleague turned up seven papers predicting global cooling, 20 taking a neutral position and 44 forecasting global warming. Today, I’m sure the number of global warming papers swamps anything being written about a cool down.


Nevertheless, I will tell you that when I visit with contractors and technicians as well as some educators, they more often than not will question the reality of global warming. Certainly, we inThe NEWShave never taken a position on global cooling other than to note what is sometimes said in that regard. By contrast, we have given plenty of coverage to the majority of those in our industry, especially at the manufacturing and engineering level, who support the reality of global warming. So we have said far more about concerns over global warming than about global cooling.


I think one reason disbelief in global warming is still so prevalent in this industry may be an indirect result of many in our industry who feel picked upon by environmentalists and the government.

Once upon a time, we did vent ozone-depleting gases (CFCs and HCFCs) until the government told us not to (and the cost of refrigerants started to get too costly to economically vent). Under government mandate to phase out CFCs and HCFCs, we have now moved to HFCs only to have those gases targeted for global warming issues.

But, we say, we keep those HFC gases in leak tight, energy-efficient systems, so they are not really contributing to global warming. Then there is our increasing use of CO2 as a refrigerant. When we do so, we are pulling that environmentally questionable gas into tight containers and systems before it even reaches up into the atmosphere. So there we are really doing a good thing.

Meanwhile, cars keep giving off CO2, cows keep giving off methane, and coal-burning plants keep belching out pollutants. And many in this industry seem to feel that environmentalists and regulators should get more upset with them than us. (It is always us against them, isn’t it?)

I truly think skepticism about global warming predictions comes in part from frustration from feeling “put upon.” Until those outside the industry can make us feel we are all in this together rather than put upon, I will continue to hear doubts about global warming - and probably write about some of those in this column and in my blog.

Publication date:06/08/2009