This week on Battle of the Beliefs, we will be discussing the ever-present issue of climate change and how to fight for our planet’s health. Mitchell Lencioni will be representing the College Democrats, and Ethan McDougall will be representing the College Republicans.
Mitchell Lencioni, College Democrats
Firstly, I will not be engaging with the fiction that anthropomorphic climate change is a hoax. It’s not. It’s as close to a settled fact as it can get. I’m concerned with confronting the problem head-on. As climate change worsens, our climate will continue to destabilize, droughts will worsen, hurricanes will become more frequent and our way of life will experience an existential threat unlike anything we’ve seen in modern human history.
How then should we confront this? One option is a command and control approach whereby the governments of the world simply use their coercive power to force the world to adopt a more climate friendly framework, but I tend to recoil from such approaches. Instead, there are several market and incentive based solutions that I believe would be effective at addressing climate change while also preserving the wellbeing of the people.
Currently, industries can pollute without bearing the social cost of the pollution, that is instead left to the people and the environment to deal with. This has resulted in extensive harm to the people and the environment that industry gets to simply not account for. Determining the cost of that emitted carbon setting an appropriate tax would internalize that externality and force industry to consider whether they want to emit less carbon or actually bear the full cost of their production. Theoretically, industry would find more efficient means of producing their goods in order to avoid the carbon tax. If they could not find more efficient methods of production, they would have to pay the tax.
Another solution is a market for carbon permits. Establishing how much emissions we as a society are able to accept and then capping national emissions at that level and assigning tradable permits would provide incentives for industries that can effectively and affordably cut emissions in their production chains. They could then sell their permits to dirtier industries while still keeping emissions at a manageable level.
However, not all of our emissions come from private industry. Electricity production and transportation are other areas where we emit large amounts of carbon. This is where the proceeds from the carbon tax come in. The money collected through that program can be used to subsidize the adoption of low-emission electricity generation, like nuclear and renewables, or subsidizing carbon capture and storage, although personally I don’t see carbon capture as a viable long-term solution. The transportation sector has some simple solutions that merely require the political will to enact them. More stringent fuel efficiency requirements, tax credits for electric vehicles and investment in robust public transit. These solutions not only help decrease emissions, but they also put money back into the pockets of the American people.
I don’t expect to have convinced you that these solutions are things you should advocate for. I only had 500 words after all. However, hopefully you will do your own research into these and other potential solutions, find the ones most appealing to you and advocate for those.
Ethan McDougall, College Republicans
Climate change, a phrase which evokes a belief in common sense and simplicity, is, in fact, complex. Unfortunately, our geo-political atmosphere in America creates strong divides when concerning this topic, specifically concerning fossil fuels, coal, solar power and wind turbines, which may be due to misconceptions among the public surrounding the effectiveness of renewable energy, the effect we have on our climate, and where our country, and world, needs to move forward.
Firstly, climate change IS a reality. It exists, and that’s undeniable. However, it is not the emergency Al Gore and Greta Thunberg have made it out to be. Climate change is complex, and most of our current computational predictions are far from creating a stable and even accurate prediction concerning worldwide weather patterns, meaning, our predictions concerning the world apocalypse at every decade is often inaccurate. Natural fluctuations in the formation, coverage, and height of clouds in our atmosphere has the same impact, if not more, as humanity does on our climate, due to the ever changing amount of sunlight and heat allowed into our middle and lower atmosphere over the course of the seasons.
Secondly, our solutions to fossil fuel, such as solar and wind power, are inefficient, cost-ineffective and unpopular. A 100 megawatt wind turbine farm, which powers 75,000 homes, costs 30,000 tons of iron, 50,000 tons of concrete, and 900 tons of non-recyclable plastic, and takes up 360 square miles of open space. During the production of said farms, about 468 metric tons of carbon dioxide gas will be released into the air, and wherever said farms are built, the environments currently there will be destroyed.
Fortunately, a more effective, carbon free, and cost effective form of energy exists, which accounts for 70% of France’s power, 40% of Sweden’s, 36% of Switzerland’s, and 20% of America’s. This energy creates an average of 138,000 megawatts of power per day, uses a 1-2 square mile plot of land, and creates safer energy than 1,300 square miles of solar and wind farms. This form of energy is Nuclear power.
Nuclear power tends to get a bad reputation, often being labeled ‘unsafe’ and ‘a danger to towns and cities’ to the point where California’s San Onofre Nuclear Plant was shut down amid controversy, forcing the state to lose 2.2 gigawatts of power every year, and increasing its carbon emissions by 35%. In reality, throughout the nuclear age, there have been less than 200 deaths due to nuclear power plant malfunctions, while hydroponic dams have caused an estimated 1,400, solar plants have caused 73, and wind turbines have caused 44 per year.
Climate change isn't an emergency, but changes need to be made to our solutions. We don’t need to have all electric cars by 2030 and we cannot base 50% of our energy on solar and wind power, but an investment in research and development for electric vehicles and an increase in nuclear power in replacement of coal plants and natural gas would put America on top for energy production and cleaner, safer energy, as well as helping our communities and societies.
Thank you to Mitchell and Ethan for representing their respective organizations this week!
UT College Democrats and UT College Republicans are student run organizations dedicated to increasing political activity in students and electing political officials of their political parties in all level of government. Check out their Instagrams at @utcollegedems and @gopatutk.
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