The Septuagenarian Speaks – Published Siskiyou Daily News, November 24, 2021
For the past few weeks, the world media’s attention was focused on COP26. Formally known as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, it concluded a week ago in a resounding bout of doldrums, with everyone wondering, “Did something happen?”
Now, I’m a layperson when it comes to the science behind climate change. Of course, that doesn’t prevent me from having opinions on the subject, but I will refrain from expressing them because I’m sure they will alienate some of the people reading this. I need all the readers I can get, and don’t want to lose any.
To get a fresh opinion, I thought I would ask my eight-year-old-self what he thought of the whole thing.
I asked him, “Bobby, do you know anything about COP26?”
“Sure, I do,” he replied.
“How do you know about it?”
“The same way all my friends do. I have a cell phone.”
“Can you explain to me what happened?”
“Sure. A whole bunch of really important leaders from a lot of countries flew their private jets to some city in Scotland and had a bunch of meetings and parties and stuff. And a whole bunch of news reporters got to go along so they could make up stuff about what was going on.”
“Who were the leaders that went?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” said Bobby. “It was kinda confusing. President Biden was there, I think. Or was he? I can’t remember. I do know that the leaders of Russia and China didn’t go. Governor Newsom wasn’t going to go. But then he was. But then he didn’t. That was the coolest part of the whole thing.”
“Why didn’t he go?”
“Who knows? All my friends are texting about that. It’s a lot more fun than going to school. All my friends have heard different stories. I’d be embarrassed to tell some of those stories to an adult.”
“So. What did the leaders talk about at the COP26 meetings?” I asked.
“A lot of stuff, like windmills, solar energy, zero emissions by some year in the future, the number of degrees of acceptable temperature increase, no coal, no fossil fuels. A lot of boring stuff like that. But I guess they couldn’t agree on all that. They did talk about exciting stuff too. Like how the oceans are going to rise, and there will be more hurricanes and floods and forest fires and drought and millions and millions of people are gonna die. That’s pretty scary.”
“Well,” I asked, “Do you think the world is a better place because of the meetings at COP26? Do you feel safer?”
“I don’t know,” Bobby replied. “Do you know what me and my buddies can’t figure out?”
“We can’t figure out why nobody at the conference talked about nuclear energy. Or if they did, the news reporters haven’t said so. If they really want to save the planet, why aren’t they talking about nuclear energy?”
“Well Bobby, maybe it is because there have been some big disasters at nuclear power plants, like Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island. They were very dangerous, and a lot of people got killed.”
“Yeah,” said Bobby, “but they’re talking about millions and millions of people getting killed because of climate change. Why aren’t they discussing all the options that might be available to save the planet? Me and my buddies can think of lots of things they can do to make nuclear power plants safer. Is there some rule, like some international law that says they can’t talk about that? It just doesn’t seem honest.”
I had no answer for that. Once again, I was stumped by my eight-year-old self. It seems to happen a lot these days.