An open letter to Michaela Mujica-Steiner

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Paul Danish

read with interest your piece in the Dec. 13 Boulder Weekly (Re: “Déjà vu at U.N. climate talks”) about your visit to the United Nations Climate Talks (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.

If I understand you correctly, you flew 5,800 miles from Colorado to Poland to disrupt a panel discussion at which representatives of the U.S. government and American fossil fuel companies expressed views with which you disagree.

And now you’re bragging about it.

Ever hear of the First Amendment? It’s in the Constitution in order to protect Americans from people exactly like you. And you have the temerity to claim you speak for “the people.” In your dreams.

You not only don’t speak for the American people, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

You think American energy companies are to blame for global warming. In your 817-word rant I counted at least ten separate places in which you attack the industry or its executives. You are self-evidently more anti-corporatist than pro-environment. Worse, you’re wrong.

Energy companies are not responsible for global warming. The people who use their products are. People like you, who drive cars and who don’t think twice about flying to Europe to indulge in 20 minutes of political exhibitionism.

Your hatred for energy companies blinds you to the incredible value of the products they produce — products that give ordinary people all over the world a level of prosperity, comfort, freedom and, yes, health — undreamed of for most of human history. Most normal people recognize and appreciate that value, even if you don’t, and aren’t about to stop using them, even if they think it will cause the climate to change.

Your real quarrel isn’t with oil companies. It’s with their customers, who feel their way of life is more threatened by authoritarian bullies like you and your pals than by either oil companies or climate change.

I was particularly struck by your assertion that “the real solutions” to the climate crisis lie in “communities of color who have been working toward a just transition away from fossil fuels for many years now.”

That’s pretty rich.

Roughly two-thirds of the approximately 80 million barrels a day of oil produced on this planet are produced by “communities of color.”

Approximately 32 million barrels of the world’s daily production comes from OPEC, an international cartel that consists entirely of “communities of color,” including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria, to mention just some of OPECs larger producers.

Ninety-eight countries have at least some oil production, and the overwhelming majority of them are “communities of color” — and most of those view oil and natural gas production as a heaven-sent ticket out of centuries of grinding poverty.

You’ve got a lot of nerve playing the race card.

Other than sliming oil companies and a single reference to switching to renewables “as soon as possible,” the only solution you and your pals brought to the climate conference was chanting “keep it in the ground” — “it” being fossil fuels.

Keep it in the ground, huh? Unfortunately, most of the people on this planet want to “do it in the road.”

Like the French, who just told Macron to take his 30-cent-a-gallon, anti-climate change fuel tax and put it where the sun don’t shine.

Or like your neighbors in the Denver metropolitan area, who own about 2.5 million cars and trucks — roughly two per household.  I’m sure they would love to have you share your thoughts about how they would get to their jobs, take their kids to school, get their food, go to the doctor, and otherwise function in what passes for civilization around here if we “keep it in the ground.”

The obvious way of reconciling “keep it in the ground” with “do it in the road” is to replace gasoline and diesel-powered cars with electric ones. Since there are more than 200 million cars and trucks in the United States, that’s kind of a big undertaking, but probably doable over, say, 20 years.

The more daunting task is coming up with the electricity to run them, which is the energy equivalent of 5 billion barrels of crude oil — which, you may recall, we are leaving in the ground.

The obvious solution is to start building nuclear power plants as fast as we can pour the concrete. The purveyors of wind and solar power will be otherwise occupied with replacing the country’s existing coal- and natural gas-fired power plants and offering all-electric alternatives for heating the country’s 115 million homes — among other things. That’s why you need to learn how to conflate nuclear power with wind and solar instead of fossil fuels as you did — assuming you’re serious about wanting to leave the latter in the ground.

But aren’t nuclear reactors dangerous? Yes. Reactors at Chernobyl and Fukushima exploded and one at Three Mile Island melted down, leaving behind multi-billion-dollar radioactive messes that it took years to clean up. And don’t they produce plutonium that can potentially be made into atomic bombs by terrorists or rogue states? Yup. And don’t they produce mountains of radioactive waste that have to be stored somewhere for tens of thousands of years? They sure do.

But my question for you is this: Which, in your estimation, is the greater risk? Building nuclear power plants, which may from time to time blow up or melt down, or a 3-, 4- or 5-degree Celsius global temperature increase, which you suggest is “catastrophic warming at an apocalyptic scale.”

I’m 76 years old, and I’ll be dead before either butcher’s bill comes due.

So it’s your call, not mine.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.