How will Kentucky cope with climate change?

Wow. Talk about climate change.

The change in our environmental climate may be the same gradual warming that most of the world’s scientists have observed since about 1970. But the political and economic climate for dealing with it changed dramatically just this week.

Leaders from 193 nations gathered Monday in Copenhagen to plan climate-change policy amid signs that major polluters such as China, India and the United States may be getting serious about addressing the problem.

Also Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided to regulate greenhouse gasses as pollution. That could lead to mandates for less-polluting power plants, factories and cars — and higher prices for energy produced by burning coal and oil and more emphasis on conservation and development of alternative energy.

What will all of this changing climate mean for Kentucky?

About 200 people —students, educators, energy executives, legislators and average citizens — gathered Tuesday at the Marriott Griffin Gate to discuss those issues.

Down the hall, business leaders and legislators were discussing it, too, at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual policy conference. During a break, Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, joked about the different perceptions and outlooks of those at the two gatherings.

But the underlying truth was clear to everyone: change is here, and Kentucky must deal with it. How well we do that will determine whether Kentuckians prosper or suffer in the future.

The Regional Climate Change Forum’s lead sponsor was the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. The corporation’s president, Kris Kimel, observed that Americans always tend to underestimate the speed and impact of technological change and overestimate the cost of adapting to it.

That’s because the economy is increasingly driven by technology and innovation. Adapting to less-polluting forms of energy will present economic opportunities for Kentucky as well as costs and disruptions, Kimel said.

Kentucky’s coal deposits have given us some of the nation’s cheapest electricity and a lure for energy-intensive industries. But rates are rising because of a variety of economic factors, and regulation to reduce greenhouse gasses and address coal’s other environmental problems will make that power even more costly.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we waste a lot of electricity now because it’s cheap, and higher prices will provide more incentives for conservation and developing alternative energy. That will reduce the need for costly new power plants and help Kentucky transition away from coal as reserves are depleted.

Most electric utilities are moving in that direction, said John Malloy of EON-US, which owns Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric.

As utilities study better technology for generating and delivering power — everything from solar, wind and landfill methane to better power grids — they also are looking at the potential of conservation.

“It’s no longer simply a supply-side game,” he said.

Kentucky’s political leaders have often been allies in the coal industry’s efforts to resist regulation. But they also have done some progressive things recently. Those include new, stricter environmental standards for state buildings and Finance Secretary Jonathan Miller’s Clean Energy Corps, an effort to weatherize homes for low- and middle-income families.

Forum participants stressed that adapting to climate change will involve a lot more than energy and and its related economic issues.

Stuart Foster of the Kentucky Climate Center at Western Kentucky University said one of his biggest concerns is that new climate patterns may make Kentucky’s droughts longer and more severe.

“Extended drought over multiple years could be devastating for Kentucky,” Foster said.

We also must anticipate and cope with climate change’s impact on agriculture and sensitive natural ecosystems, where a little change can have big and unpredictable consequences.

Kentucky’s ability to adapt will require education, research and the ability to act quickly to mitigate damage and take advantage of economic opportunities.

“We can’t predict all of these changes,” Kimel said. “We have to get out ahead of them with our imagination.”

Comments Closed

to “How will Kentucky cope with climate change?”

  1.   will1127 Says:

    warming since 1970? I’ll remind you that “global cooling” was all the rage in the mid to late 70s. that alone should give anyone pause. the earth has been heating and cooling for millions of years. North America used to be under ice. fossilized tropical plants have been found in the arctic.

  2.   Dr. Rick Says:

    Dear Tom:

    The mandates you mention will be put out from the Federal Government as you have noted. This will force the Sate Government and the taxpayers to immediately adapt to higher energy prices. We can be assured that what ever Congress comes up with will not be economically sound nor scientifically based. I believe it was President Nixon who first pushed Energy Conservation, set the thermostat at 68 ??? You can look for massive job losses in the near future and you will see numerous black market energy entreprenuers.

  3.   akorozco Says:

    Good luck getting anything done at Copenhagen with these details out.

  4.   Ken Says:

    I can’t wait for the warming to begin! Let nature takes it’s course… and by all means necessary “HIDE THE DECLINE”!!!! (Sung to “Draggin’ The Line” by Tommy James)

  5.   rarjr Says:

    Kentucky will deal with climate change by ignoring the scientific facts, roll over for Big Coal, and fall further behind the rest of the world. Because Big Coal has corrupted state officials, including our Governor, Kentuckians will be ill served by ourpoliticians, and cling to our backward dependence on coal, further prohibiting it’s people to emerge into a new tomorrow.
    It does not have to be this way. Maybe the Federal Government will save us from Big Coal and our corrupt politicians that are in their pocket.

  6.   Iza Funin Says:

    Sorry, Tom, but the 1970s fear mongering was the coming ice age and mass starvation due to over population. That’s why they now call it climate change for bet hedging.

  7.   zed Says:

    Kentuckians will ignore the facts, revel in their ignorance, lick the boots of the coal companies and remain mired in the early 20th century of its politicians. As our children realize that there is no future here, they will continue to migrate to other places where opportunity is not meth manufacturing or the growing of marijuana. Our two biggest cash crops!

  8.   Mark Says:

    How will I cope with climate change? I will have to buy bigger coats — it’s darn cold outide.

  9.   Carl Says:

    Did anyone notice the extended drought conditions outside? What a crock. Climate change happens every day, if anyone would like to get technical about it. The patent ignorance on these posts is ridiculous. Does anyone here read the news, the data was fixed or ignored if it did not conform to climate change fanatics.

  10.   Jeanie Says:

    We don’t need Cap-and-Trade.. Fee-and-dividend a better way to go. Fee-and-dividend calls for revenue credits to go directly to households instead of distribution companies. Cap-and-Trade is just another Walll Street derivatives game and the offsets and tax credits would go toward boondoggle schemes like ‘clean coal’ research which would in turn raise energy rates for the average consumer!!!

  11.   Jeanie Says:

    Coal-fired plants spew out all of the “big three” air pollutants: toxic pollutants, such as mercury and arsenic; sulfur dioxide, which is an especial contributor to particulate matter pollution; and nitrogen oxides, notorious for shaping ozone smog and the provoking of asthma attacks. Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

    Two-thirds of today’s coal-fired power plants were constructed before 1975 and not equipped with ‘scrubbers’; ‘scrubbers’ are what removes pollutants! It will cost billions of dollars to re-fit these old plants with scrubbers! Our energy costs will go up to pay for this!!

    Regarding toxic coal ash, the EPA has on record at least 24 spills. They’re serious coal ash spills. It accumulates in animals and plants, and works its way up the food chain. Selenium causes reproductive problems. Cadmium, causes cancer. KY has no law right now that requires ponds to be lined!!! This toxic material should be classified as ‘hazardous waste’, not ‘fill material’!!!
    And, talk about Climate-gate, check this out:

  12.   Edward Says:

    How will Kentuckians cope with ‘climate change’? We will cope in the same way we’ve had to cope with having the two most biased, left-leaning newspapers in the nation.

    That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.

  13.   TC Says:

    We’re constantly dealing with climate change, because the climate is constantly changing. However, I do think it’s funny that the Earth has been heating and cooling for billions of years and constantly adapts to the amount of pollutants in the air, yet we have no faith in the power of out planet. We now know that temperatures haven’t been rising in the past 10 years, in fact it is getting cooler. This is just another idea of mass propaganda to sway people towards one side or the other. Dems are trying to get environmentalist on their sides so that they can their votes and Repubs are going after the blue collar conservatives now. Let’s be clear, politicians are not in this for the quality of our life or environment, they are in it for the MONEY! They are just using this as a way to swing money and power from the oil boys to the green boys. In all and all, everything boils down to politics and money.

  14.   john57 Says:

    “However, I do think it’s funny that the Earth has been heating and cooling for billions of years and constantly adapts to the amount of pollutants in the air, yet we have no faith in the power of out planet.”

    Well there’s your problem. Yes, the planet will take care of itself. We’re the ones that will not survive. The planet has survived approximately 5.5 billion years of change. Yet it has only been for a mere fraction of that that there has been a period where conditions on the surface and in the atmosphere have allowed life in general as well as mammalian and thus human life to develop and flourish. If we accelerate the natural processes we shorten opur lifespan, not the earths.
    And the overblown email story doesn’t prove temps have actually been rising. ALL the data indicate that ten of the hottest years on record worldwide have occurred in the last eleven years. As long as we have been burning things we have been re-releasing all the green house gasses that the earth had already naturally sequestered as it developed the atmosphere that allows us to live back into that same atmosphere. And humans and their early ancestors have been burning things for at least 750,000+ years.
    The 2010 Acura TSX averages about 25mpg and is a very clean running car producing a mere 1% or 2% of the Co2 and pollutants (remember, dust and soot particles also trap heat in the atmosphere…) that cars produced just 20 years ago. Yet it t releases about 8.5 billion tons of carbon into the air a year. Co2 and carbon act as a thermal blanket reflecting and trapping heat back onto the planet. Plain and simple logic suggests that with all the trillions upon trillions of tons of greenhouse gasses we have re-released back into the atmosphere on top of the naturally occurring sources that have always been there, it would be irrational not to think we are capable of and are most likely radically altering the earth’s natural processes.
    Beyond that, cap and trade is a bad idea. It is merely another sell out to the oil and coal companies because it provides no incentive for them to actually reduce their emissions. All they have to do is buy credits from other non-polluting companies. And let’s face it, if a company doesn’t pollute to begin with, than giving it credits for nothing they can then sell to the polluting companies is giving both something for nothing. Cap and limits without clean air credit trading is the only way we will ever resolve these issues.

  15.   will1127 Says:

    “Maybe the Federal Govt will save us from corrupt politicians”….hahahaha…that’s a good one!!!!