If one believes greenhouse gases will cause terrible climate problems, then stopping their release from sources of carbon-burning energy means energy costs will necessarily skyrocket (sound familiar?). However, the length and quality of human life is directly proportional to the availability of affordable energy, which today is about 85 percent carbon-based. The truth is, carbon emissions will continue to rise no matter what the U.S. does because most of the world has already answered the real question — that argument is settled.
Should we study new sources of energy? Absolutely. And when they become safe and affordable, they could be ready for deployment. Until then, I’d rather see my five grandchildren have the opportunity to accumulate wealth, enabled by affordable energy, rather than be made poorer and thus less able to face whatever vagaries the world and the climate might throw at them in the future.
As you can see, this is much more than a murky scientific issue, and why the stakes, and thus passions, can be so high and why we argue.
John R. Christy is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Alabama State Climatologist. Readers may send him email at email@example.com. He wrote this for The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va.