This past week, there was a lot of talk about the president's decision to pull out of the Paris Accord, or, more officially, the Paris Agreement, and even more officially, the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Those crazy diplomats and their fancy insignias.
As you might imagine, there was a lot of argument, which seems to happen any time this president signs anything. The usual suspects came out against President Trump's decision to abandon the Paris Accord--and they were apoplectic, as usual. The sky is always falling with this bunch.
If our friends on the left are quite correct in thinking that too many conservatives ignore the threat of climate change, then our friends on the right are just as correct in thinking that liberals too often overstate it. (For one of the best columns on climate change, at least from a conservative point of view, please read Jim Manzi and Peter Wehner's 2015 column in National Affairs, which you can find here: https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/conservatives-and-climate-change)
The world is not going to end tomorrow, or even in 100 years, if the global temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius. Mankind might have to move cities inland. And the costs could be in the trillions. There are scholarly studies that show some possible positive consequences of climate change--for example, longer growing periods for agriculture. But overwhelmingly the effects would be negative. We should be able to say that much, and have the debate, without resorting to hyperbole. (We are reminded of the editorial writer from Florida who, about a dozen years ago, predicted the last of the Great Snowstorms that very year because of global warming. We asked if she was worried about being remembered in, say, 2019. She wasn't.)
Few people much care for breathing sooty air. But there are better ways to reduce pollution, and in the long run even climate change, than the Accord de Paris. And it wouldn't cost 4 percent of the world's GDP to do it.
We could. If we only would.
The kids might be too young to remember, but in the late 1970s, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and a stage full of other entertainers--some of whom might have even had high school educations--produced "No Nuke" concerts around the nation to protest nuclear energy, nuclear plants and nuclear times. The premise was simple, and simplistic: Nuclear power bad.
Just about the time that they made their thoughts known, a movie called The China Syndrome came out. And what can only be described as a PR coup of the first order, the month that Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon put out that film, the all-too-real Three Mile Island nuclear plant melted down in Pennsylvania.
All these combined to make nuclear power, well, toxic. Even though nuclear fuel is widely considered the best, most efficient and cleanest form of energy readily available.
Note "readily." Because solar power is probably the cleanest. Or perhaps wind-based energy. But the sun isn't always shining, and the wind isn't always blowing. Mankind hasn't developed the kind of batteries we would need to produce all our energy needs during August in Arkansas, or, if you want wind, January in Illinois. Nuclear power, however, would always be online. And in some places, already is.
It's tech we've had around since World War II. It drives submarines around the oceans. And nuclear power is the perfect pairing to go with green energy: It releases zero carbon emissions into the atmosphere. And spent fuel can be safely stored under a mountain for a few thousand years until mankind figures out what to do with it.
There is a cost factor. New nuclear plants cost billions to build. But that's not the reason there is exactly one new nuclear plant being built in this nation today. (In Georgia.) The reason is because nobody wants a nuclear plant in their backyards. Imagine if somebody planned one on the river near Maumelle. Or just south of I-440.
Of course that couldn't happen. The No Nukes Movement was successful beyond reason.
Only now are we beginning to get over the general fear and loathing of nuclear power left by the limousine liberals of the 1970s. The concerts, the movies and even the meltdown that was contained at Three Mile Island did a lot of damage: They deprived this country of the best source of energy available in the modern world. Hysteria proved more destructive than any radiation from any plant. For proof, see the coal-fired plants belching smog into the air each day.
Now the same crowd--if not the same people, then the same kind of people--want to stampede the rest of us into believing that we should sacrifice the national economy in Paris, because they say so. And whenever someone dares raise a reservation or two about their theories, or eventual cost, the reaction is always the same: Shut up, they explain. Is there any wonder skeptics exist?
There are many paths toward a better environment, toward a better world, toward a better future. The path with the lowest cost might be a nuclear one. But we might have to get another decade or two away from the disco era to make it possible.
(On this topic, perhaps we're finished for a few days.)
Editorial on 11/09/2019
Print Headline: Forget Paris again, III