The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 05, 2019 1:00 am

Caucus welcome first step toward climate solutions

Christer Watson

In 100 years, we will not be using coal. We probably won't be using natural gas, either. Cars using gasoline will be gone.

I don't make predictions lightly

I am not nearly as confident about the future of any other area of technology, especially news-making technologies such as artificial intelligence or self-driving cars.

The reason for my confidence about coal, natural gas and gasoline-powered cars is based on climate change. Those fuels, if used at anything remotely like the current pace, will add significant carbon dioxide and other warming gases to the atmosphere. All reasonable computer simulations predict an environment that would become warmer, oceans more acidic, storms more fierce and, in general, changes that would make our world unrecognizable.

I believe that if we don't change our fossil fuel consumption until those dramatic changes occur, we will change that consumption after. It would be too late, of course, but I believe we will change our behavior.

I feel like the only uncertainty is whether we, as a society, collectively recognize this threat and change our behavior before or after catastrophic change occurs.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, it appeared that the only senators willing to engage in this debate were Democrats. It is with relief, then, that I read that Sen. Mike Braun, in his first term representing Indiana, is seriously engaging with the issue.

Braun announced that he is forming a caucus in the Senate with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, that will concentrate on climate change solutions.

For those unfamiliar, Senate caucuses are groups of senators who agree, at least vaguely, on some issue or value and aim for a legislative solution. Including caucuses on the House side, there are hundreds of such groups.

Braun and Coons are making this caucus bipartisan. Hopefully, it represents an important step toward a solution that would have broad support among a wide range of people.

In a news article from this newspaper announcing the caucus, Braun said, “If you're not accepting the basic chemistry and physics that when you put carbon into the atmosphere you're creating a greenhouse effect, I think this is probably not the right place to be.”

I have two reactions. First, that statement is a relief. Reasonable people can disagree about how to solve the problem.

Reasonable people can disagree about the balance between the options of natural gas in the short term, nuclear power, energy efficiency, solar and wind power.

However, all reasonable people agree on basic physics and chemistry. The fact that Braun points to basic chemistry and physics means that he understands this distinction.

He understands that the computer simulations of our climate's future are not just political opinions that can be ignored if inconvenient.

These predictions, along with our shared values, should be used to guide our choices.

We all want an environment that is recognizable in 100 years. I believe Braun is showing how Republicans can be part of the solution.

It is also nice to see Indiana represent a moderate, useful part of the Republican Party. Braun here appears to be in the tradition of the late Sen. Richard Lugar, who was also interested in solutions based on our best science.

I hope the rest of our members of Congress can join him.


Christer Watson, of Fort Wayne, is a professor of physics at Manchester University. Opinions expressed are his own. He wrote this column for The Journal Gazette, where his columns normally appear the first and third Tuesday of each month.

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