Fred LaSor: Lowering our carbon footprint

Heads of state gathered in Paris to discuss climate change and how to prevent the end of the world from global warming. If this reminds you of the childhood story of “Chicken Little” you’re not alone.

Al Gore has been predicting the end of the world since 1992, when his book “Earth In The Balance” was published. If you’re interested, the book still can be purchased on Amazon for 95 cents. That’s a lot more than the value of his predictions are worth. With no show of remorse at having been wrong when he said polar ice caps would disappear by 2014, Gore has merely set a new date and stuck to his prediction of the world’s end.

President Obama was in Paris for the UN summit. That is no surprise as he has said on several occasions climate change is our nation’s biggest threat. This despite the killing of more than 120 people by terrorists in Paris three weeks ago. He’s surrounded, as is always the case, by layers of security agents who are there to protect him from armed attack, not climate change.

The irony of people who predict dire consequences if we don’t make dramatic changes in the way we live is they don’t make those changes themselves. Al Gore owns at least four houses, including one in Nashville of 10,000 square feet that consumes as much energy as 12 normal houses. Does his lifestyle show he’s concerned about his carbon foot print?

The carbon foot print of the presidents and activists discussing climate change in Paris exceeds that of many African nations. Again, this is a matter of choice by the people who tell us glaciers will disappear and oceans will rise if we don’t stop using coal and other fossil fuels — while they continue their own consumption with no apparent concern about their personal carbon output. Salvation is ours, they tell us, if we use wind and solar energy exclusively.

Which highlights another irony from the people who tell us they care for the future of the earth: they are almost universally opposed to nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants have a much lower carbon footprint than fossil fuel powered plants, and their safety record is good. The worst nuclear disaster to date was in an old plant in Chernobyl, USSR. It resulted in fewer than 50 fatalities — nothing like the disaster Hollywood foretold in scare films like The China Syndrome — and newer designs are even safer. We don’t have experience with newer designs, though, because opposition from the green crowd has prevented the licensing of new plants for a generation.

Holding the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris offers an opportunity to compare nuclear and green power alternatives. France has successfully relied on nuclear power generation since 1973 and has a good record of safe operation and affordable electricity, part of which it exports. Germany has gone the other direction, relying on wind and solar for power, and has to import power from neighboring countries who use fossil fuels. The difference could not be more stark.

In a New York Times op-ed published this week, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and a major Silicon Valley venture capitalist, writes: “supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change.” He claims there’s private money available to build nuclear power plants if government gets out of the way. But don’t bet nuclear power generation was mentioned in Paris.

Fred LaSor retired from the US Foreign Service 15 years ago. He lives in Minden.


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