Fred LaSor’s commentary about climate change employed a classic “Merchants of Doubt” tactic, making it sound as though there’s no scientific consensus on the dangers of the changing climate or the need to do something about it right now. This is far from the truth.
To paraphrase a former State Archivist, Guy Rocha, “People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”
Here are a few facts about climate change:
There’s overwhelming scientific consensus (99.9 percent of peer reviewed articles published since 2013) the earth is warming and the warming is caused by an increase in Green House Gases (GHGs) due to human activities.
Since 1950 natural factors (miniscule changes in the earth’s orbit and rotational wobble, sunspot activity and solar radiation, deforestation, volcanic eruptions, land use changes, ozone depletion) have resulted in no increase in the earth’s temperature.
The average global temperature has increased about 1.4 Fahrenheit since 1880.
The current scientific consensus is if we take no action to slow the rate of warming there’s going to be a rise of between 4 degrees and 7 degrees Cecilius by the end of this century.
The results of this temperature rise would produce devastating impacts to agricultural production (leading to food shortages, starvation, and large population migrations), coastal communities (due to sea level rise), and water supplies. It would increase the frequency of wildland fires, droughts, and floods; and result in mass species extinction due to habitat loss.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded while the impacts of climate change can’t be avoided entirely, the worst impacts can be avoided if we limit the rise to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, GHG emissions must be reduced by 80 percent from 2000 levels by 2050.
NASA has an informative website on climate at http://climate.nasa.gov/ and the IPCC website http://www.ipcc.ch/ has a lot of detailed information.
How to achieve 80 percent GHG reduction is the focus of the climate talks currently taking place in Paris. Of more than 190 countries attending the conference, more than 170 have made commitments to limit their GHG emissions.
Mr. LaSor is correct nuclear power doesn’t emit GHGs, and many think it should be considered as a way to reduce carbon emissions. However, it’s not without its own problems — just ask the citizens of Nevada what they think about disposing of the nuclear waste from the nation’s current nuclear power plants at Yucca Mountain.
In addition, his statement about nuclear power’s safety record is misleading. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster contaminated a widespread area that led to the resettlement of 335,000 people and is estimated to have caused 7,000 cases of thyroid cancer. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant destruction in Japan sent radioactive water into the ocean, caused about 150,000 people to be relocated, and is estimated by a Stanford University Study to eventually cause about 130 deaths from cancer.
Lastly, while nuclear power might eventually be part of the path away from fossil fuels, because of their long lead time plants cannot come on line soon enough to keep the earth’s temperature rise to below 2 degree Cecilius. To do that we need to ramp up wind, solar, and geothermal power as quickly as we can — and the state of Nevada is well situated to benefit from this ramp up because we have abundant geothermal resources and solar potential.
So let’s get going. I don’t want to have to tell my kids and grandkids they have to live with environmental devastation that was caused by my generation doing nothing when we had the opportunity to avert the worst impacts.
Chas Macquarie is a civil engineer, outdoor enthusiast, and a resident of Carson City.