News From Terre Haute, Indiana


July 6, 2014

Readers’ Forum: July 6, 2014

Coats ignoring climate science

Sen. Dan Coats’ defense of the coal mining industry (Tribune-Star, June 16) completely ignored the best technical advice available to Congress on the causes and consequences of global warming, including that of four Republican-appointed former directors of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The attitudes of current Republican legislators stands in stark contrast to the past. During the Civil War, Republican President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill creating the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The NAS was desperately needed to provide reliable, evidence-based scientific advice to the U.S. government. The National Research Council (NRC) was added in 1916 to deal with an exploding workload due to WWI. During the Cold War, Republican Presidents D.D. Eisenhower and G.H.W. Bush issued executive orders increasing the duties of the NAS-NRC to include essentially every area where tested, reliable scientific knowledge might be critical to forming good government policy.  

The NAS has joined with similar academies of science of other major nations in the “Joint Science Academies’ Statement: Global Response to Climate Change” (NAS, 2005) that noted:  (1) global warming is real, (2) global warming is caused by increasing atmospheric CO2, and (3)  there will be significant consequences, a great many of them bad.

While electricity prices affect our well-being, not all costs are listed on the bill. Indianapolis police (Trib-Star May 30) know that violent crime increases with summer temperatures. Indeed, a recent study of past local climate changes around the world (Science, Sept. 13, 2013) found that interpersonal, and especially, inter-group violence increased when temperature, drought or floods increased. Each taxpayer spends more for police protection and national defense than for electricity; paying a little more for electricity might well save money overall.

As a senator, you are responsible for national security. Remember that Army officers can’t afford to ignore reality — their lives are on the line. Read U.S. Army FM 3-24.2 “Tactics in Counterinsurgency.” Section 1.6 lists eight forces contributing to the rise of insurgencies. One of these is climate change. For details, read “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis” (NAS, 2013).

The 2,500 coal-related jobs you mentioned represent only 8/100 of 1 percent of the 3 million Indiana jobs reported for May (Indiana Department of Workforce Development). Wind and solar power are more labor-intensive than mechanized coal production and would easily absorb the coal employees. The real competition for coal is natural gas, which is less expensive and generates less CO2. Gas turbine generators are used for peaking loads because they can be switched on quickly. This makes them a good complement for wind and solar energy. Replacing coal generators with a mixed system of gas and wind turbines and solar generators would actually increase employment.  

Since the founding of the NAS, data-based science has doubled our life expectancy, operates robot laboratories on Mars, and lit the fire of the sun on the heads of our enemies. I am at a loss to comprehend how Republicans suddenly became contemptuous of the non-partisan, data-based scientific advice of the NAS-NRC system that they themselves created, and even the advice of their own political appointees.

Sadly, the only explanation is that the financial clout of the carbon fuels industry is more important to them than the security of the USA, and indeed of the entire world.

— George S. Bakken

Terre Haute

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