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Guest Opinions

Letter to the Editor - John Hannah

Written by John Hannah

To the Editor:

The recent article “Day looks at factors affecting climate change” was an interesting article, as my perception of the situation is that recently farmers in my part of the world – central Nebraska – either have or are coming to a consensus that climate warming is a problem that will have to be dealt with. Mr. Day makes the argument that there is some consensus of one leg of the stool, CO2 rise, but limited scientific consensus of the impact on water cycling and clouds, which in a sense are one and the same, and then infers no policy changes should be made.

Another interpretation of his article it is that it is an attempt to create a red herring, climate change, and beat it to death to distract folks from the real problem that is much larger. That problem is man-made environmental damage, of which climate change is a negative component, debatable as to the quantity man contributes, but it certainly is not zero.

Another component is the damage being done to the landscape. Strip mining is not without environmental impact. Yet another component is potential damages to water tables by fracking. All of these and more are the result of extractive energy industries and all are man-induced. It strikes me that anything done in the way of reducing extractive energy demands will have beneficial impacts on the planet – regardless of whether the policy change is for mitigating climate change, limiting fracking because of groundwater issues or preventing the massive reshaping of the landscape.

So if policy becomes mitigating climate change, either large or small scale, then how is that a problem? Advancing the argument we should not change policies because policies might cost money seems sort of weak to this writer.

For example, say we enact an expensive policy based on a faulty climate model that predicts a 20-foot sea rise, and it turns out to be only five feet. Is that really a disaster? That policy would have certain economic costs. However we should not overlook that even limiting sea rise to only five feet, based on a mistake, would still have a monstrous positive economic impact.

It is true that doing nothing costs nothing when the doer or industry is passing the full costs of their doing off onto the general public in the form of sea rise, erosion or water pollution. But it is a cost nonetheless and must be paid. Doing something like reducing fossil fuel use might cost the public something, but there are opportunity costs to doing nothing also – like Dade County in Florida disappearing under the Gulf of Mexico. I recently discovered the elevation in most of Miami is less than 20 feet above sea level and present hurricane surges are likely more than 15 feet. The highest points in town are apparently the landfills at maybe 30 feet. We apparently don’t need to worry about the rats. So what is the loss of Miami worth or what is the cost to build a sea wall probably 20 feet high or more to protect it? Don’t forget the pumps either.

Doing nothing regarding climate change might not be the best option.

Sincerely,

John Hannah

Columbus, Neb.