- Climate change is a real concern
- We should strongly encourage nuclear power production
- Yucca Mountain should be funded and opened
- Coal and natural gas burning power plants should be phased out
- Volkswagen should be put in timeout!
Ah, the great outdoors. While I prefer to spend most of my time inside on my comfy bed or on the cool tile floor, I have a tremendous appreciation for the outdoors. Walking, hiking, and swimming are some of my favorite activities. Can you imagine not being able to enjoy those things?
That is exactly what is happening where I live. Due to a prolonged drought, our rivers are running very low and some of the lakes I like to swim in are nothing but big mud pits (which is also fun, but that is besides the point). These are the immediate effects of climate change, and the long term effects are predicted to be much worse. But, are these drastic changes in our environment due to human activity?
Yes, Humans Are Causing Climate Change
Despite many political figures telling us that this is a natural cycle and that there is nothing to worry about, thousands of scientists, those smart people who geek out over things like annual precipitation charts, tell a very different story. They are convinced that human-caused climate change is real, and it could mean very serious consequences for the canine and human races, as well as many of the plants and animals that share this great planet with us.
Why are the scientists so concerned? Well, the fact is that despite all of the work we have done thus far to reduce pollution and prevent climate change, it is still getting worse. In fact, according to NASA (yeah, those smarty-pants space guys) carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in 650,000 years and are contributing to an unnatural heating of our planet.
If Humans Know They Are Causing Climate Change, Why Are They Not Fixing It?
Humans are, but they are doing so slowly. Our government must look out for our economic well-being at the same time we look out for the environment. Implementing regulations too quickly will negatively impact businesses and possibly result in job losses, increase costs to consumers, and instability in our economy. Clearly, that must be avoided, so the question becomes: What is a good balance? In the end, we must make changes slowly for the sake of the economy, but doing so too slowly could result in irreparable harm for canines and humans alike.
The Crude Oil Export Ban
At the forefront of the argument when discussing the balance between the environment and the economy is the U.S. ban on crude oil exports. The Obama administration and climate advocates argue that allowing the U.S. to export oil will lead to greater global greenhouse gas emissions as oil will be more readily available. This argument is flawed.
If the U.S. fails to export oil, and the global demand for oil continues to grow, other countries will simply increase oil production. Many are already doing so. By maintaining the ban on crude oil exports, the Obama administration is continuing worsen our trade deficit and weaken the economy. They are hurting U.S. businesses and costing American jobs.
What Can Be Done?
Our country has placed a strong emphasis on clean energy in recent years, touting solar and wind power as the solutions of the future. Our government has created incentives for companies to adopt these technologies and to make their use widespread. This is a move in the right direction, but there is at least one other avenue that should be pursued, nuclear.
Nuclear energy has a very bad reputation, mainly because people lack sufficient knowledge in how they work. The fact is, nuclear energy is very safe. Yes, there have been a few large disasters, but many of those occurred before modern revolutions in nuclear energy made the process much safer. The Fukushima power plant was built in 1971, and although it recently was involved in a well-publicized catastrophe, it would have continued operating for many years without incident if it were not for a lethal combination of an earthquake, a tsunami, and human error.
Despite the fact that nuclear energy is clean (it emits no greenhouse gasses at all) and it is reliable, the U.S. has shut down 4 nuclear reactors in the last two years alone. Why? It is more profitable to burn natural gas. The problem is, natural gas still produces greenhouse gasses and contributes to global warming (http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=73&t=11).
You Say Nuclear Should Be Part Of The Solution, But What About The Waste?
Bury it in my backyard. Seriously! I won’t dig it up. At great expense, the U.S. government constructed Yucca Mountain, a facility in the remote desert of Nevada specifically for the safe long-term storage of nuclear waste. Due to a series of scare tactics, Nevada residents became concerned about the storage of nuclear waste in their state and Nevada politicians quickly jumped to oppose Yucca Mountain. Those politicians worked diligently to get the project defunded, and in 2011, Yucca Mountain was closed. There were no technical or safety concerns with the site. Our country produces nuclear waste from a number of different sources, and having a safe and secure facility to store it in is paramount to our continued use of nuclear material.
Nuclear Is Only A Part Of The Solution, Coal Must Go
Aside from the widespread adoption of solar, wind, and nuclear energy, we need a plan to slowly phase out our older coal burning power plants. The production of electricity in the U.S. is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions! The pollution from energy production must be addressed aggressively. We also need to continue to call for more efficient and clean running vehicles (put Volkswagen in timeout!), more energy efficient home appliances, cleaner methods of producing solar panels and batteries, and to look at how industry and agriculture can make adjustments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Plants Are Important
Lastly, we must examine agricultural land use. Deforestation is a global issue that hinders our planets natural ability to process carbon dioxide (plants!). The more of our forests that we allow to be cleared for strip malls, wheat fields, or palm oil production, the lower our planets ability to cope with our increased carbon dioxide production. We must actively discourage deforestation and find ways to use our land that is both beneficial to us, and protects our fragile ecosystem.
Humans Must Take Responsibility For Their Actions
Human’s must realize that their activities not only harm themselves, they harm us dogs as well. It is important that humans recognize the damage they are causing and work to prevent and even reverse it. The United States alone cannot save the world. Thinking that would be naïve; however, we can be a leader in showing the world how to best be stewards of our planet. We can set a good example for China and other developing nations who are just beginning to understand the significant health risks associated with pollution and can encourage them to be more mindful of our fragile ecosystem as a whole. This is one area where the U.S. must lead. It starts with us. We must be the alpha of our pack.
- Phase out all coal and natural gas power plants within 20 years
- Place increased emphasis and encouragement on nuclear power production
- Fund and reopen Yucca Mountain
- Actively prevent deforestation in the U.S. and encourage similar actions globally
- Continue to encourage solar and wind power development at the current rate
- Invest in clean energy technologies, especially making solar panel production less toxic
- Maintain and possibly expand the current schedule for increasingly strict regulations on vehicle emissions and appliance energy efficiency
- Invest in studies on efficient land use, including increasing crop yields
- Put Volkswagen and other polluters in timeout!
- Lift the ban on crude oil exports