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Nuclear power can help reduce greenhouse gases

It’s impossible to imagine that people don’t impact the ecosystem. Mankind is part of nature and human activities can’t help but affect the environment.

Global warming should be free of politics but, of course, it’s not. However, when common sense and science unite it seems clear that man’s activities matter and the way energy is produced matters. Man is part of — not apart from — nature.

The climate is impacted not only by man but by a wide range of factors, including the Earth’s orbit around the sun, ocean currents, vegetation and volcanic eruptions. But to deny man’s role is irresponsible.

Begin a conversation about global warming and someone will point out how cold last winter was. In February the news reported snow and ice storms in Georgia and the Carolinas. With such weather hitting the Deep South, how can anyone contemplate global warming?

One hard winter doesn’t indicate global cooling any more than one hot summer implies global warming. The Earth’s climate changes. At one time there were glaciers in what is today Ohio. Most scientists agree that the most recent Ice Age, which began roughly 1.5 million years ago, ended due to astronomical causes such as variations in the Earth’s orbit. Global warming occurred without man’s help. But man is active today.

In 2012, The American Meteorological Society reported, “not every year is warmer than the preceding year globally. Nevertheless, all of the 10 warmest years in the global temperature records up to 2011 have occurred since 1997, with 2005 and 2010 being the warmest two years in more than a century of global records. The warming trend is greatest in northern high latitudes and over land.”

NASA reports, “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years. Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale.”

The extent of man’s role regarding global warming remains subject to debate but the role of carbon dioxide is settled science.

“The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century,” NASA informs. “Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. Increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response. Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in solar output, in the Earth’s orbit, and in greenhouse gas levels.”

The existence of some communities, like Kivalina, Alaska, situated along the Chukchi Sea, have already been threatened by global warming.

In 2013 the Associated Press reported, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that Kivalina will be completely uninhabitable by 2025, a victim of melting ice, coastal erosion and rising sea levels. The Arctic region is heating up twice as fast as mainland America, according to temperature records.”

The burning of oil and coal creates carbon dioxide and that contributes to global warming. Man isn’t going to abandon the automobile but why not start a national push towards using nuclear power to produce electricity for our cities? Nuclear power plants produce steam, not smoke, and nuclear power is less costly than coal generated energy. The plants are expensive to build but once construction is completed that portion of the project is over.

Of course, nothing is perfect. Nuclear plants produce radioactive waste, which is currently stored in steel-lined concrete containers. Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has long been the proposed site to store the material, which is now stockpiled at about 100 different sites. If politicians are serious about curbing greenhouse gases they’ll be serious about nuclear power and Yucca Mountain.

Seventy-five percent of France’s energy is generated by nuclear power. The French found ways to address the challenges posed by nuclear energy and America should be able to match their ingenuity.

Earlier this year researchers at Concordia University, in Montreal, reported that seven nations account for more than 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to 2005. The list, from most generating to least, includes the U.S., China, Russia, Brazil, India, the U.K. and Germany.

Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced. Nuclear power is a good first step.

Joseph Bell was communications director for former Connecticut Congressman Rob Simmons, R-2nd District.

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