Be­ing rea­son­able about cli­mate change

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - OP-ED - Jay Am­brose is an op-ed columnist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may email him at speak­to­[email protected] © 2018, Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC

It used to be called global warm­ing and now it’s mostly called cli­mate change, but it’s still a near apoca­lypse frown­ing on the hori­zon, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent gov­ern­ment re­port. A big­gie, it says, will be shrink­age of the econ­omy through the rest of this cen­tury. What should we do?

Be rea­son­able, for one thing, and that in­cludes finding out more about the re­port, a 1,656-page of­fer­ing of worst-case sce­nar­ios from the 60-mem­ber Na­tional Cli­mate As­sess­ment com­mit­tee. It en­listed 300 sci­en­tists and oth­ers for re­search, and 18 fed­eral agen­cies re­viewed its find­ings. Ad­mit­tedly, that’s a lot of bu­reau­crats play­ing with a lot of words, lead­ing to fear of mish­mash hav­ing its way, but we do get in­ter­est­ing views of what un­abated cli­mate treach­ery could do.

The seas will con­tinue to rise. More wild­fires will come our way. Crops won’t bloom like they used to. Be­cause of cows hav­ing fewer plants to chew, dairy prod­ucts will de­crease. Weather will be­have fiercely. Black­outs will keep elec­tric­ity at bay. Faced with flood­ing, in­fra­struc­ture won’t hold up. Pre­ma­ture deaths will in­crease in the Mid­west. Mental health will be af­fected.

The re­port’s pre­ven­tive an­swer is to do some­thing sig­nif­i­cant about low­er­ing green­house gas emis­sions. Mi­nus that, it warns, we will have to spend enor­mous sums of money ad­just­ing to these calami­ties, and that’s why the econ­omy will find its way to a ditch get­ting ever deeper.

Right off, how­ever, we have a counter-as­sess­ment that the re­port’s es­ti­mates of the cost of all of this won’t be over­whelm­ing rel­a­tive to GDP growth. Ac­cord­ing to analy­ses in The Wall Street Jour­nal, even small growth will com­pen­sate for the dam­age and ad­just­ments, and I my­self would add that, what­ever the trep­i­da­tions, gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tions de­serve as much ex­am­i­na­tion as the cli­mate it­self.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, for in­stance, was po­lit­i­cal power mis­used, a con­sti­tu­tion­ally ques­tion­able, crush­ingly ex­pen­sive, uni­lat­er­ally en­acted scheme in which states could have their own laws de­stroyed as global warm­ing got off very nearly scot-free.

Part of the prob­lem was want­ing to re­place coal with heav­ily sub­si­dized so­lar and wind power even though they are tech­no­log­i­cally un­pre­pared for the task be­fore them. They pro­vide en­ergy in­ter­mit­tently, when the sun shines and wind blows. En­ergy is needed around the clock.

Still, the United States leads all other coun­tries in the world in re­duced CO2 emis­sions, and guess why. Free en­ter­prise has been re­plac­ing use of coal, which has lots of CO2, with use of nat­u­ral gas, which is far cheaper and has far less CO2. The mar­ket said hot-dig­gity-dog and no gov­ern­ment guid­ance was nec­es­sary. The thing is, it takes the whole world to re­duce global warm­ing and most of it is not try­ing.

De­spite all the cry­ing, scream­ing, and de­spair when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced he was pulling out of the in­ter­na­tional Paris Ac­cord, only four or five of the 196 nations that signed the in­ter­na­tional agree­ment have done much of any­thing. Even if they did, the goals are so in­signif­i­cant that lit­tle would be ac­com­plished. Well, it’s a start, some say, and yes, it’s a start to eva­sive fraud as world­wide CO2 emis­sions have gone up by half in re­cent decades.

If you be­lieve mean­ing­ful, de­fin­i­tive CO2 di­min­ish­ment cru­cial to hu­man flour­ish­ing, you also must be­lieve in a car­bon tax and in ac­com­pa­ny­ing tax re­duc­tions to keep the econ­omy purring (and the ri­ot­ers at home). And, if you be­lieve in then main­tain­ing an in­dus­tri­al­ized so­ci­ety, you’ve got to sub­scribe to nu­clear power be­cause re­new­ables are nowhere near ready and nat­u­ral gas does in fact emit CO2.

Nu­clear power, fool­ishly be­ing pushed aside in Ger­many, which is con­se­quently suf­fer­ing, is get­ting safer and killed no one by way of ra­di­a­tion at Fukushima, for in­stance. While these plants are ex­pen­sive, re­search and stan­dard­iza­tion could turn that around. Among those ad­vo­cat­ing nu­clear power are pi­o­neer­ing cli­mate change ac­tivist James Han­son, the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, and re­searchers at The Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Carnegie Mellon Univer­sity. Nations dis­pens­ing with nu­clear plants are pay­ing the price.

In the U.S., free en­ter­prise has been re­plac­ing use of coal with use of nat­u­ral gas, which is far cheaper and has far less CO2.

Jay Am­brose

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