This article was written nearly two years ago. Since then we’ve done very, very little to curtail CO2 or Methane emissions. Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia are destroying millions of acres of rain forest each year. In our country, we are drilling for more oil and gas while promoting coal for power plants. Recently, cities North of the arctic circle have experienced temperatures of over 100 degrees! There are solutions that mean jobs and progress, but the entire country and world have to be committed and the USA must take up its position leading that effort.
Originally Written: October 1, 2018
Climate change is already here and has been for some time. Whoever denies this fact is ignoring all scientific studies and is definitely not who I would vote for. We hear certain politicians calling it a “hoax.” It is not a hoax: Scientific studies have proven its legitimacy. False climate-change statements should not be used to guide an agenda to revive an already dead coal industry; nor should it be used as an excuse to poison, abuse, and mistreat our waters and lands. It should not be used to scare people to garner votes and to divide the country. We must be united in our efforts worldwide to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
This year, fires have ravaged large areas of California, Sweden, Greece, and Siberia. Unprecedented heat waves hit the Arctic, causing dramatic environmental changes that negatively affect plants and animals. In other places, extreme rainfall killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands. In Cape Town, South Africa, and in other nations, they are running out of water. Around the world, hurricanes will become stronger as the ocean-surface temperature increases. Floods have destroyed coastal cities, costing billions of dollars and affecting millions of people. This is the true world of climate change and it is solely due to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air.
Last year, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tipped above 412 parts per million (PPM). To put this plainly and simply the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air in parts per million (ppm), are now over 400, and most of this increase this has happened in the last 50 years. For the last 400,000 years, that number ranged from about 280 to 180. During our human historical times, the concentrations were around 280 and we enjoyed a moderate climate. That has all changed for the worse.
Parts Per Million
You are probably asking, “What are parts per million?” Let me explain. Let’s imagine that the molecules in our atmosphere are marbles and there are one million small marbles. A 4-foot by 4-foot box that is almost 20 feet tall would be one million marbles. Of those, there are 780,000 marbles of nitrogen and 210,000 marbles of oxygen. The rest is argon, 9,000 marbles, and a few trace marbles. This is the basic makeup of our atmosphere, 999,000 marbles plus the trace marbles.
The marbles we worry about the most are Carbon Dioxide (CO2). It only takes 280 marbles of CO2 to give us the climate that we know. That tiny amount of marbles would barely show on the top of that box of marbles. But they greatly affect our global temperature: 280 parts per million (ppm) and we have the temperatures and climate that we enjoy. If there were no Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, our earth would plunge into a global ice age, but there is, and that keeps us warm.
Unfortunately, we have added more CO2 marbles to bring our parts per million (ppm) over 400. And we are adding more every year. The last time that we were at these levels was about 3 million years ago when there were no arctic ice caps and the water levels were hundreds of feet higher. All of this is from the burning of fossil fuels for energy.
Yes, there are volcanos and someone will smartly point out that they emit more CO2 than we do. But there always have been volcanos. With the exception of very large volcanic events in the geologic past, the emissions from our current normal eruptions are already calculated in the Global Carbon Cycle. This means the rise in CO2 is still due to human activities and not volcanoes. Let’s set the argument aside.
We Need Energy
We certainly need energy, a lot of energy to propel us into the future and sustain our economy. But drilling offshore for more oil, surface mining large swaths of land for coal and shale oil, plunging deep into the ground for natural gas by fracking, and even cutting off the tops of mountains for coal all come at a price we cannot afford: increases in the CO2 emissions. This type of energy only helps the fossil fuel companies that are too shortsighted and greedy to see the dangerous outcome in our search for energy.
The administration’s course of action, to the joy of the fossil fuel industry, of opening more lands and shores for oil and coal, even in our national parks, is going to affect us in ways that we cannot begin to fathom and will hurt everyone on earth; from hunting and outdoor sporting advocates to everyone who enjoys sandy beaches and clean rivers and streams to those who love the pristine environments of vast forests, untouched wildernesses, valleys and mountains, and uncluttered shores. This course of action will harm those who feed us on farms, and fish for food in our oceans. We are all affected, all over the world. If the hunters were truly aware of the EPA cutbacks, and the assault on our environment and government lands, they would be screaming at the top of their lungs – and voting – against anyone who claims not to believe in climate change.
One of my greatest concerns is a leak that affects an underground aquifer. These aquifers cannot be cleaned. Only recently the previous government’s opposition to the Keystone Pipeline was lifted, and the company’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would follow parts of the existing Keystone right-of-way, stated that the planned pipeline would have a minimal impact on the environment and cultural resources. Yet not long after that announcement, a pipe broke and the leak reported to be 5,000 barrels was later changed to upwards of 9,000 barrels of oil. Fortunately for us, it did not affect the underground water tables – this would have been disastrous. Pipelines that crisscross our land destroying underground water tables will become a thing of the past.
Nuclear Power Plants: Why Nuclear? Why Do Anything At All?
Continuing on our current path of digging, drilling, mining, and using far more fossil fuels, and disregarding the consequences, is similar to owning a house with a beautiful basement, and outside you know there’s a drain pipe that needs fixing because when it rains hard the basement floods. But instead of fixing the drain, heavy rain comes and you fix the basement; walls, rugs, floors new furniture. Over and over after heavy rain, you fix the water damage but you never fixed the pipe. Our situation is no different. We spend money – billions of dollars – on flood damage and ignore the real cause, and not build one clean power plant. This is insanity.
The solution is to build modern state-of-the-art nuclear power plants. Why do I promote nuclear power plants? This is the cleanest source of energy that we have with the SMALLEST environmental footprint. Just ask the US Navy. And new technologies can limit radioactive waste dramatically, even use up the nuclear waste that has already been collected. While solar and wind have their place in the energy scheme, we cannot wait any longer for these sources to become our base energy loads. Building a nuclear power plant will give us time to develop wind and solar where they can be used. No, there is no time and no other source.
Nuclear, combined with solar and wind and battery storage that is being developed, will light up our homes and cites for years to come. When we come home from work telling stories to our children the lights will be on, the appliances will be working, and our houses will be warm and comfortable and the cities will be vibrant. All of this can happen without harming our Earth and the environment. Furthermore, we do not have to rely on foreign oil, which has fueled wars and poverty.
The Benefits of Nuclear
Each fossil fuel power plant we replace will do more to help endangered species than all the conservation efforts because the biggest threat to their existence is climate change and encroachment on their land. Grizzly bears, humpback whales, elephants, bald eagles and so many other species small and large are under severe environmental stress. And this presidential administration – along with the fossil fuel industries – is gutting vital protections for some of our most vulnerable wildlife. Conserving wildlife will be another added benefit. Again, we can beat them by building nuclear power plants and reducing the need for fossil fuels.
Our transportation needs will be served by electric cars and hybrid cars that are powered from clean nuclear and renewable power sources, and bio-diesel from genetically modified algae and bacteria. We have many solutions when the grip of the fossil fuel industry is taken away from our government legislators.
How can we fight the trillion-dollar fossil fuel companies? As soon as we start building nuclear power plants and developing solar and wind generators they will fight us. This is what happened in the mid-1980s and 1990s, at a time when this change was needed. The fossil fuel industry launched media and scientific campaigns to discredit climate change science. They launched false claims against the dangers of nuclear power. Soon climate change became a theory and there were hundreds of papers and experts who said this increase is normal. But there is nothing normal about 400 ppm. That cannot be denied. Now we are living with the consequences.
Fighting Back Despite the Odds
We have the power to fight back. As a country, and as voting citizens, we are bigger than all the fossil fuel companies and utility companies in the world. We can begin building safe efficient nuclear power plants ourselves and feed this power into the grid. Each power plant we build will replace a fossil fuel plant. Each nuclear power plant we build will prevent billions of tons of CO2 from entering into the atmosphere. Each nuclear power plant we build will save our country billions of dollars. The benefits are numerous with the most important benefit – saving our Earth. This is an “end-around” strategy.
We cannot let private industry do this, it must be done by us, the people, and we must run these power plants ourselves, saving billions in construction and future energy costs. A nuclear power plant built by private industry is costing well over $20 billion, partially due to unnecessary regulations. What’s shameful is that they make us pay for these costs! The cost can be reduced by at least half, if not more, only if we build and maintain them – the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Navy is doing that right now. This is not new.
How to Pay for This
Climate change is real and there are many things that can be done to make a difference. The cost of doing nothing or making believe it’s imaginary is too high. The multitude of those powerful Hurricanes are the ramifications of this new no action. Each flood, each hurricane, each drought costs billions of dollars and millions of lives. The cost of the damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina, and recently Florence combined will be in the hundreds of billions.
It is far costlier to do nothing than to act now. We need nuclear power plants. A nuclear power plant should cost five to ten billion dollars. We need at least one hundred more – probably two hundred depending on the size of each unit. Our country uses approximately 13,000 KWh per capita year at a cost of 12 cents per KW. This means we – 330,000,000 people – pay over five hundred billion ($500,000,000) dollars per year for electricity. I think there is enough money to build nuclear power plants and fight back against this growing threat.
I love this country and this land. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of voting for those who believe in climate change and are willing to do something about it.