Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

August 5, 2013

Burning coal will eventually kill our planet

Dear Senator Manchin:

Your recent press release touting coal (“Manchin: Here are the facts about coal,” July 29 Times-News) was broad on generalizations but short on addressing scientific facts about coal’s role in the destruction of our planet’s environment.

If you would have the public support coal as an energy source, perhaps you would address the following facts?

This summer, the atmosphere in the northern hemisphere hit 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2, the primary gas now warming our planet at record rates. The atmosphere hasn’t seen this level of CO2 in over 800,000. Scientific measurements show this rise beginning around 1750 with the industrial revolution being fueled by coal.

Burning fossil fuels account for over 90 percent of the CO2 now being released, and we are increasing the load by over 5 percent per year.

Scientists agree that if we want to save the planet in anything like its present condition, we’ve got to get green house gases down to 350 ppm or less.

Recent studies indicate that global warming could kill off 25 percent of the planet’s plant and vertebrate life by 2050.  If we continue burning coal, we will inevitably destroy our planet. Shouldn’t we stop burning coal — and other fossil fuels —a s quickly as possible to avoid our own extermination?

I hope you won’t say that global climate change is just a theory. Over 98 percent of scientists in the field say the evidence is overwhelming that our burning of fossil fuel is the cause of the dramatic climate changes taking place.

One has only to look at the forest fires in the west, the significant changes in precipitation patterns, the warming oceans, and increased super-storms to see that climate change isn’t a manufactured hoax.

We have dumped so much CO2 into the atmosphere that the world’s oceans, a major carbon sink, are now undergoing acidification.

Combined with rising ocean temperatures from global warming, this has resulted in the gradual but pronounced destruction of coral reefs. If we lose the coral reefs, the nurseries of the oceans, we will lose the planet as we know it. Shouldn’t we make it a priority to end the burning of coal purely for reasons of survival?

In the U.S., coal has been dumping 40 to 50 tons of mercury per year into our environment each year. Mercury is a neurotoxin that now pollutes our rivers, streams, and lakes.

Most coal-fired plants also use and abuse massive amounts of water. Should we not stop this as quickly as possible to protect resources essential for life?

This country has had the luxury of wonderful water resources, yet the preferred coal mining practice, mountain top removal, has destroyed 2400 miles of streams, not to mention the destruction of the homes and livelihood of so many across Appalachia.

Have you visited southwestern West Virginia recently and actually seen the destruction there or talked to the people whose lives have been devastated?

The talk of jobs is a red herring. What good are jobs if we don’t have clean water, clean air, and viable flora and fauna?  

If you look at Germany, as they have moved away from coal to renewables, their economy has remained strong and vibrant. We could easily do the same, and create far better jobs than the coal industry now offers.

I know how D.C. works, and you are beholden to the monies Big Coal pours into your campaign coffers.

But are you willing to look at the bigger picture — a picture that tells us unequivocally that to continue burning coal is to guarantee the death of our planet?

Doesn’t love for your children and grandchildren make such considerations paramount?

Craig Etchison

Fort Ashby, W.Va.

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