By Collister Johnson, Jr.
Before retiring in 2012, I was Administrator (CEO) of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), a Presidential appointment with Senate confirmation. The SLSDC owns and operates, along with the Government of Canada, the series of locks and other structures which allows ships to navigate from Montreal, CA, through the five Great Lakes to Duluth, MN, a distance of over 2,000 miles, making it the longest inland waterway system in the world. It supports over 200,000 jobs in the US and Canada.
The Seaway operates 24/7, and allows the shipment primarily of bulk commodities – grain, coal, iron ore, steel, etc.- to and from the Great Lakes to ports throughout the world. The Seaway, however, is unable to remain open year round. During the winter months, from approximatey late December through mid-March, the Seaway is clogged with ice, and forced to close down.
When I assumed the Administrator position in 2006, I was intrigued by this theory known then as man-made global warming (now “climate change”). What if it were true? What if man-made forces were indeed warming the earth, and ice conditions in the Great Lakes were really receding? If so, we could remain open longer, and thereby obtain more productivity from our locks and other assets without any increase in capital investment. What great news.
So I started to look into the man-made global warming theory. To my great disappointment, I discovered quite early that it was a house of cards. Even worse, the theory had been absconded and promoted by grant seeking ”scientists” until it had become a multimillion dollar industry built on exaggeration and deception, even fraud.
Thus, I reconciled myself to the notion that that the Seaway would just have to remain ice bound for several months of the year. But what shocked and surprised me was the avalanche of money paid to, and attention paid by, a large contingent of people supporting this this wildly counter-intuitive theory.
It got worse. If you questioned this theory, you were a bad person. You did not care about the planet, nor did you care about saving the planet. Who knew that you, me, and the rest of our species even had the power to save the planet?
So in order to test this theory out, let’s engage in a thought experiment. Let us imagine that the Yale (my alma mater) Bowl seats 100,000 people. But instead of people, it is filled with 100,00 molecules taken from a vertical slice of the Earth’s atmosphere. In the nitrogen section there are 78,000 cheering fans. In the oxygen section, there are 21,000 fans/molecules. In the trace gas section, there are just 1,000 molecules, only 40 of which are CO2 molecules. And of these 40 CO2 molecules, only 4 of them, at most, are man-made CO2 molecules.
According to the theory of man-made global warming, CO2 is the culprit, the bad guy. CO2 must be controlled and reduced, even eliminated. Feeling sorry for these much maligned man-made CO2 molecules – this incredibly tiny fraction of the atmosphere (and the Yale Bowl) – I wrote one of them the following letter:
Dear Man-Made CO2 Molecule-
I know it is lonely out there, sitting all by your self at the Yale Bowl, far removed from the other three – yes, just three – man-made CO2 molecules scattered around the stadium. I know you realize that there are many people – so-called scientists and environmentalists – who are out there trying to make you disappear. They believe that if even just one more of you show up in the stadium in the next twelve years, you will wreak havoc on the temperature of the Earth, not to mention causing all kinds of hurricanes, droughts, tidal waves and other catastrophes.
I know you are upset by this – and you should be. After all, it is you and all the other 39 CO2 molecules in the stadium who are responsible for producing the oxygen which we humans, and virtually every other living thing on the planet, are totally dependent upon for survival. Without you and your fellow CO2 molecules, we would cease to exist.
CO2 is the essential chemical ingredient which enables life on earth – food, water, oxygen and all the other things that are indispensable for life as we know it. You are plant food – not just nice to have plant food, but must have plant food. Without you and your other non man-made CO2 brethren, there would be no plants on earth, nor phytoplankton in the oceans, upon which the entire earthly food chain depends for its very existence.
I know what they say – there are too many of you, and that your numbers are increasing at an alarming rate, due to the burning of fossils fuels – primarily coal and oil – the solid stuff which you once were, before you were combusted. At the current rate at which man-made CO2 is increasing, there might be one – yes one – more of you in the stadium by the year 2100. This will cause a “tipping point”, and then we will all fry. Really?
I don’t make light of the fact that there are a number of ”we must save the planet” types marching around the stadium determined to find you and make you disappear. But before you get discouraged, remember – this is a fad, a monumental scientific group think fad. It is a frivolous notion, like phrenology, and can be malignant as well, like eugenics and McCarthyism, but a fad nevertheless. It will pass, and historians in the not too distant future will scratch their heads and wonder “What in the heck were they thinking?” But in the long run you and your reputation will be OK. The planet may be a far different looking place tens of thousands of years from now, after going through one or more inevitable glaciations. We Homo Sapiens may or may not be around to see it. But whatever the case, we will always be grateful for the role you played over millions of years in combining with the sun, water, and the earth to transform us from single celled pond scum into the complex creatures we are today.