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May12, 2010

Vol. 110, No. 13

Act on clean energy now

In response to: Temperatures rising

Dr. William Happer *64’s comments have the same character as the rhetoric he attributes to anthropogenic climate-change “believers.” He does not refute the climate-change evidence that he is most qualified to refute, concerning the radiative properties of gases, but focuses on other issues. This gives the impression of arguing from a weak position and justifying a preconceived conclusion, which does not merit a response, but his dismissal of the precautionary principle does. His assertion that limiting our carbon emissions would impair America’s economic competitiveness is only plausible in the short term and only if we take unilateral action. It can’t be unilateral because some countries already are leading us. These countries surely would like us to yield the next low- and no-carbon energy technologies to them. Much of the rest of the world is waiting for us to lead.

There’s no better antidote to our economic woes than to rebuild our energy infrastructure based on technologies we create here, creating jobs that can’t be outsourced, paying domestic energy producers, removing the need to defend “our” resources in other countries, and a host of other benefits. Imagine if the unemployed were put to work producing clean energy capacity, which would benefit us for decades.

Our energy sources have trended toward less carbon and more hydrogen, starting with wood (C:H = 8:1), then coal (1:1), crude oil (1:2), and now natural gas (1:4). We can use our fossil-fuel wealth either to gracefully transition to a better future, or purely for current comfort and hope that we like the future created by others (e.g., the fossil-fuel industry).

I urge Princetonians, all of whom are leaders and opinion makers at some level, to take the precautionary principle to heart and take actions that are available to us now, will help reduce our climate-change impact, and make sense regardless of their impact on climate change.


Kevin Raeder ’86 (Geophysics)
Associate Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Boulder, Colo.

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