MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An all-star panel is assembling in Morgantown to discuss the latest developments — some potentially very alarming — on the subject of climate change and how better to discuss the issue in the U.S.
James Van Nostrand, director of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, is one of those speakers at the event hosted by the West Virginia University College of Law.
“There’s not going to be any bashing (of coal) going on,” Van Nostrand said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval. “I think the point of this conference really is climate change communication — that we are largely failing to communicate the sense of urgency about this issue. Most of the morning is going to be focused on how do we communicate about climate change, how can the message be more effective.”
Van Nostrand, a Republican, said the issue has become one of the most divisive in the nation — often leading to a discussion that can veer wildly into anti-science.
“I think it needs to be a more productive dialogue,” he said. “It’s gotten very polarized. I don’t quite understand. I’m a life-long Republican, myself. And I don’t understand how it’s become such a litmus test for Republicans that we now have to be anti-science. We need to get past that in order to work on solutions that are going to be effective.”
In the past two months, there have been two exceptionally alarming reports on where climate change is going — including one by the Trump Administration that the President himself didn’t “believe.”
“We may be beyond the point where mitigation is going to be effective,” Van Nostrand said. “You look at the IPCC report that came out in October, we’ve got to have 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep temperatures from rising above two degrees. We need to be thinking a lot about adaptation.”
The report indicated that the greenhouse gas emissions gap is wider than ever, making the projected average warming increase even more difficult to avoid.
Van Nostrand said that report should have been alarming enough. The federal report from 13 federal agencies released the day after Thanksgiving indicated climate change could chop off as much as 10 percent from the size of the U.S. GDP by the end of the century.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of money dealing with the impacts of climate change — extreme weather events, infrastructure, cities having to harden their sewer system, for example, just because of the intense rainfalls that we’re going to have,” he said.
He was further critical of the decision by the Trump Administration to withdraw support for the Paris Climate Accords, signed in the late stages of the Obama Administration.
“We were able to lead on this issue in Paris,” he said. “And since then, we are now failing to lead. We are rolling back all the initiatives that allowed us to commit to a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Paris.”
Van Nostrand said part of the conference Saturday will focus on technology — and how it can further make traditionally pollutant industries more viable in the 21st century and beyond.
“Technology is what it’s all about,” he said. “I think that’s a real success story for why energy prices have been coming down in the United States, because of the advancements that have been made in natural gas, wind, and solar. The same advancements have not been made with respect to coal.”
Admission is free and the public is invited to attend, though online registration is required.
The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the WVU College of Law, featuring keynote speaker, WVU alumna, and Morgantown native Emily Calandrelli. “The Space Gal” is an Emmy-nominated science TV host and executive producer and host of FOX’s “Xploration Outer Space” as well as a correspondent on “Bill Nye Saves the World” on Netflix.
Speakers will be experts in clean air, solar power, geography, climatology, law, and much more.