During the march held in New York City on September 21, PJTV reporter Michelle Fields spoke with Robert F. Kennedy about his plans to change his personal consumption habits. The good news is that RFK Jr. has absolved all of us of having to make any changes in our personal choices; the bad news is that he believes that the only necessary changes to make it possible to prosper without CO2 is to pass a few laws.
I am a proud liberal in the classic sense of the word; I don’t believe that ordering people or businesses to take action that is detrimental to their health and prosperity is an effective or acceptable means of achieving progressive goals. Far too many people in political fringe groups have seized on a genuine problem of rising CO2 production and atmospheric concentration as a political tool to further already existing agendas that have little to do with addressing the underlying technical challenge.
They also have little to do with advancing human development and enabling better living for more people.
Unfortunately, far too many people on the right have been entranced by the “don’t worry, be happy” messages sponsored by fossil fuel interests. They ridicule people who are concerned about the rate of CO2 emissions. They dispute our concerns because the models developed so far do not predict future effects with sufficient precision. They assert that taking action would be too costly compared to simply adapting to whatever changes come about from continuing business as usual while seeking economic growth through burning ever greater quantities of hydrocarbon fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
I tend to agree with Kennedy in pointing to the problems caused by excessive oil interest money and power. I also agree that fighting wars to control oil resources is both immoral and economically wasteful.
I tend to agree with Fields in pointing out that many climate change activists are hypocritical because their actions do not match their words.
However, if I were to confront Kennedy, I wouldn’t ask him about his cell phone or his automobile; neither of those has any significant impact on CO2 emissions.
Instead, my litmus test would include pointed questions about nuclear energy. That technology is the best way to take effective action to slow both CO2 emissions and to reduce the economic disparity caused by excessive profits in oil and gas extraction. Anyone who is serious about climate change should also be serious about using nuclear energy as a tool in the battle; it is the only available power source that can function reliably despite the weather and despite geographic location without producing any CO2.
If I had the chance to confront Leonardo DiCaprio, I would not beat him up about his use of private airplanes, I would ask if he is interested in learning the useful example that could be set by building yachts powered by atomic engines.
It is both understandable and admirable to be concerned about the current state of nuclear technology and the high cost of building and maintaining nuclear power plants. The solution, however, is to continue improving the technology, find and eliminate the bottlenecks in regulation, skilled labor and industrial capacity, and work to lower the existing political barriers that add many years to the development timeline for most projects.
Unfortunately, Kennedy and many of his cohorts dismissed nuclear energy long ago and have so far refused to take a hard look at why they made that decision and to question if it is now time to revise that position in light of new information. They loudly berate people who deny the science of climate change while frequently denying the more settled science that tells us that atomic fission works safely and reliably while producing abundant quantities of affordable energy.