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The climate and energy dilemmas are inextricably linked, but this fact is often ignored. For instance Pope Francis, on his tour of the United States mentioned climate change, but apparently there was no recognition on his part that the fuel we burn is not frivolous; on the contrary, it has allowed for a healthier, longer lived, better educated, more prosperous population, who live in a cleaner environment.
There are in fact, strong moral imperatives on each side of this argument. However this ignorance of the benefits of the use of fossil fuels, this stated or unstated assumption that we can just turn them off without any adverse consequences, has permeated the debate to a very large extent. Turn on your TV almost any day and you will hear many who say we should drastically reduce, or even end our use of fossil fuel virtually immediately. Even physicists are not immune. The APS, in its statement on climate change (1) says we must begin to reduce the emission greenhouse gases 'starting now'. It speaks about climate effects likely to occur, but there is no word about the benefits of fossil fuel. The AIP has gone one step further and gives a time limit. In its Flagship publication Physics Today had two articles in its October, 2011 issue arguing that we must turn off carbon input into the atmosphere in about 20 years from 2011, without any thought that this would mean the decent into abject poverty for billions of people (2,3). If anyone should be aware of the importance of energy for civilization, it is physicists!
This Forum has provided a wonderful opportunity to argue these points, and this author has taken advantage of it (4,5). It is worth pointing out another journal, Standard Science Research and Essays also encourages scientific essays, and is willing to publish essays longer and more provocative than what is usually appropriate for Physics and Society. These are published open access and are freely available on line, like Physics and Society. I have recently taken advantage of this opportunity and published one such essay (6) on the climate energy dilemma. This discusses not only the science, but also gives an amateur's view of the theology and human psychology. It is nothing if not provocative, but it makes an argument I believe is long overdue.
Retired from NRL
2. Steven Sherwood, “Science controversies past and present,” Physics Today 64(10), 39-44 (October, 2011),
3. Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol, “Communicating the science of climate change,” Physics Today 64(10), 48-53 (October, 2011). http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v64/i10/p48_s1
4 Wallace Manheimer, Letter to the Editor, Physics & Society 38(3), 3 (July 2009).
5. Wallace Manheimer, American Physics, Climate Change and Energy, Physics and Society, 41, 2, April, 2012,
6. Wallace Manheimer, Original sin, prophets, witches, preschool sex abuse, and global warming.
Standard Science Research and Essays 3, (9), 277, 2015