Paul Quigg

By Paul Quigg, columnist

I have chosen the word “Tomorrow” for my column’s title because I believe in tomorrow. I am an optimist for many reasons, but mainly because globally humanities condition has improved by leaps and bounds during my long lifetime. The prognosticators of impending doom have been wrong to such a degree that their predictions are ignored by rational thinkers.

I have been deeply involved in the environmental movement since the late 1960’s, striving to consider the many sides of the issues involved. Over the years I have hiked, jogged, climbed, skied, paddled and floated on several continents. 

I study findings of the United Nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(UNIPCC), the International Energy Agency(IEA), the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency(EIA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency(NOAA), World Meteorological Organization(WMO), and other government entities. I don’t have any time for deniers because they have nothing to offer.

The earth is warming and we have contributed to that warming and we will continue to contribute to the warming because there are not enough alternative, non-polluting fuels to replace our fossil fuels. The global economy and our daily needs are energized by the burning of fossil fuels, and we will not give them up. 

How will this situation be resolved and what will the future be like? I don’t know and anybody who says they do is only speculating. The climate activists and the deniers are both pursuing their own agendas, with the activists winning the media consensus, but predictions of conditions 50, 75 or 100 years in the future are not worth the paper they are printed on. The complexity of future events, the complexity of future climate, any clue of future technological discoveries, medical discoveries, pandemics, etc. are beyond human comprehension. 

In future columns I will try to pick a current environmental concern and express my opinion of its validity and present some background on its evolution and possible future. 

Mr. Quigg, a University of Virginia graduate and resident of Luray, has practiced architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region since 1962. As a lifelong environmentalist, in the 70’s he was appalled at the polluted air and water and has dedicated much of his time since in studying and commenting on the environment. He has been published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. 



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  1. So, um…thanks Paul for nothing…I guess? “climate activists and the deniers are both pursuing their own agendas”, oh really? Let me see, one “agenda” is wholly funded by a narrow collection of fossil fuel and extraction industries and then distributed through their vast disinformation network, the other “agenda” if funded by Universities, government (including military), the fossil fuel industry (see nonpublic Exxon report dating back to the 1970s), et. al…as an educated man, I will let you guess who has more credibility.

  2. Kevin; I don’t have a clue what you are trying to say. My column never mentioned the fossil fuel and extraction industries. I have nothing to do with them. Please explain.

  3. The credibility of deniers has been so thoroughly discredited to the point they have no voice in the climate discussion. You seem to be hung up on them. They aren’t worth your time.

  4. Paul: Good title for a column. My perspective on progress is different from yours, but I agree that fossil fuels have been essential in building the wealthy, privileged, and democratic societies of the West. We’ve been the beneficiaries of those buried-treasure fuels that were formed over many millions of years. Where I disagree is that perceptions of the advance of human cultures are all we need to take into account when assessing future world prospects. Our “doing well” isn’t the same as the planet doing well, and this is deeply unfortunate. There is a clash of our incredibly successful species with the natural systems of the earth. The environmental movement has been all about mitigating the harmful effects of our industries and economies.

    We’ve had some successes in that regard, as I’m sure you’ll agree. To my thinking, the climate problem isn’t different in kind from the air and water-pollution problems, or the thinning of the ozone layer. It’s just a bigger problem–okay, a massive problem. While we do not know precisely how sensitive the future climate will be to continuing increases in greenhouse gas levels, we do know that the planet will continue to warm up, barring some event like a cataclysmic volcanic eruption cooling the planet for a time. That’s not a prediction as much as it is simply an exptrapolation of the trend we’ve already seen. And of necessity we’re focussed on the near-term, not 50-100 years out.

    So I give fossil fuels their due (while skipping over their environmental cost). But I don’t believe we should throw up our hands and resign ourselves to always being under their sway. That seems sure to take us to a less desireable future. You may be right that we currently don’t have the energy technologies we’d need to replace fossils, but you also imply that the future could hold unexpected answers to energy problems. Reaching a new age of energy will be the hardest task of humankind. I can’t see an alternative.

    • Will; My desire as I started this column was to create a dialogue of well reasoned and informative thinking, and you have satisfied that desire in your excellent comments. I am skeptical enough of my own beliefs that I am encouraged by hearing the other side of the story.
      Any discussion of future events is fraught with peril. The future is unknowable, and even saying the earth is worse off today then it was 25-50-75 years ago is so complicated and all consuming that it is impossible to even try to predict. The thing that gives me the greatest confidence in the environmental future is the fact that the predicters of a catastrophic future have been wrong almost 100 percent of the time. $500 dollar a barrel oil was predicted by 2000. 300 million Indians were destined to die in the 1990’s, not a prediction but as a fact. I could go on with hundreds of ‘tipping points’ and ‘ends of the world as we know it’ that have failed as the human condition has improved by leaps and bounds over the last fifty-some years. These type of past events are what give me faith in the future.
      I predict fossil fuels will diminish and expire slowly in the future and other energies will fill our needs. I don’t have a clue what they will be and how they will evolve.

  5. The linked article from justsayin is a good reminder of the poor record of prognosticators of disaster, whether they be end-times prophets like Harlod Camping or Cassandras like Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”). I tend to avoid words like catastrophe and disaster when talking about climate change, because people don’t respond well to what they see as alarmism. But the fact that these words are used in reference to climate doesn’t mean that climate predictions are no more to be taken seriously than the overheated warnings cited in the NY Post article. Don’t you have to take a look at the science behind the predictions? In the case of climate change, the science is pretty strong and getting stronger all the time, according to the latest from the IPCC. I see no reason to doubt the IPCC on that, as advance in science is one thing we can rely on to happen.

    Even if one feels that “disaster” and “catstrophe” are putting the case in too extreme a way, an urgent need to mitigate the problem can still exist, and I believe it does with climate change. Although I would agree that predictions of history are rarely accurate because there are so many variables and interlocking parts in human societies, when we isolate the physical mechanism that has the most influence on the earth’s temperature–concentrations of certain gases in the atmosphere–we become well able to predict some climate effects of higher concentrations. We really do know what the future holds in terms of incresase in temperature from growth in emissions. Paul I think accepts that, but if I understand him, he believes that our ability to adapt to environmental changes provides reason for optimism.

  6. “Sources of Virginia utility-scale electricity generation:
    full-year 2019

    Coal (3.5%)
    Natural Gas (59.2%)
    Hydroelectric (1.5%)
    Nuclear (30.1%)
    Biomass (3.8%)
    Solar (1.0%)
    Petroleum (0.3%)
    Non-biogenic Waste (0.6%)
    The Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 directs the construction of 16,100 MW of solar power and onshore wind and up to 5,200 MW of offshore wind by 2035, bringing the state’s utility-delivered power to 100% renewable energy by 2045. It will close all but two coal-fired plants by 2024, with the Virginia City and Clover plants allowed to operate until 2045, though economic conditions may close them earlier.” (Wikipedia)
    So four coal fired power stations must close by 2024. But while natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide as does coal, there is way more CO going into the atmosphere from natural gas fired power plants than coal ever did.
    The democrats passed this law, so the impetus to build solar power stations comes from them, not greedy corporate interests trying to steal your view.“

  7. Will; I believe any realistic effort to make a dent in future global temperature will cost far more than the public is willing to spend. Past mitigation costs have not made a dent in temperature growth.
    The UNIPCC is a political organization with one goal. They want to find nothing good concerning the future temperature. A close look at their yearly COP conventions and their half-decade Assessments are meetings concerned entirely with splitting up the money. Small African countries send hundreds of delegates to party for two weeks, devouring their entire renewable energy budgets.
    The enormous energy sector fuels everybody and everything all of the time with unimaginable momentum and inertia.

  8. Robert; Every political entity in the world has made ambitious goals to reduce their emissions and increase their renewable energy production. Their batting average is zero, and I see no indication the percentage will change in the future. This fact gives me no satisfaction, and I wish the results were better. I have charted these goals since Kyoto in 1997. Their simple goal was to reduce emissions by 5 percent by 2012. unfortunately their emissions went up 12 percent by 2012. My charts show projected emissions slowing and beginning to fall to their dated goal, while at the same time emissions continue to rise exponentially.

  9. “I don’t have any time for deniers because they have nothing to offer”

    Your refusal to look at any other viewpoints that don’t agree with you indicates that you intend to talk about your viewpoints and nothing else making this an opinion piece

    • I believe this IS the OPINION piece section. Deniers have no opinions except to deny. If you have some denial arguments to offer, I would be happy to consider them. I have no recollection of anyone presenting any.

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