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Thu., Aug. 15, 2013

Protect, serve the planet

I applaud Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s commitment to safety and security, but his Aug. 11 opinion piece misses the point of the recent movement opposing coal export terminals in Washington. Mr. Knezovich misrepresents the costs and benefits of exporting coal. He is right that jobs will be created, but at what cost?

Scientists agree that global temperatures that are 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the historical average are the limit for our planet to continue as it is. Temperatures above that move into the realm of the unknown. We don’t know what natural cycles will do in a hotter planet when the tundra melts, for example. Our world-class outdoor recreation and tourism (that employs more than 150,000 people and brings in over $16 billion in visitor spending a year) could crumble.

We do know that to keep the Earth from warming more than 3.6 degrees, we can emit about 565 gigatons more CO2 (a gigaton is 1 billion tons). There are currently about 68 billion tons of coal in Wyoming, which, when burned will yield 194 gigatons of CO2; that’s 34 percent of the greenhouse gases that can be “safely” emitted before things get out of control.

Patrick Van Inwegen


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