As the United Nations climate talks in Paris wrap up Dec. 11, the agreements made there will affect short and long-term environmental decisions in Kentucky.
Western Kentucky University Professor of geography and geology Rezaul Mahmood says the climate talks in Paris are important because the issue is critical in our time, and discussion and debate are vital for developing good, long-term solutions.
Leaders from nearly 200 countries are at the climate talks, zeroing in on final agreements on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Mahmood says the topic at the Paris talks that will most impact Kentucky in the long run is the energy sector, which will bring challenges in the years ahead.
“If nationally and internationally we are talking about reduction of carbon emissions, in our case, we have coal-fired plants and they produce lots of carbon," says Mahmood. "What we are going to do about it, I just do not know exactly.
"Even nationally speaking, we set ourselves to a path that we are going to reduce our reliance on carbon or fossil fuel-based energy consumption, and a lot of work needs to be done," he says. "That can impact, but impact can be good or bad. There is a cost of action, and a cost of inaction, too."
Once the Paris talks end, Gov. Matt Bevin and other state leaders will have to negotiate and come up with plans for Kentucky, says Mahmood, who is associate director of the Kentucky Climate Center and was a member of a federal advisory committee on climate from 2011 to 2014.
Bevin, who took office as Kentucky's new governor on Dec. 8, has said he doesn't want to submit a plan for reducing power plant emissions by the federally-mandated date of September 2016.
Mahmood says debate over climate change shouldn’t prevent the state and nation from addressing environmental challenges. Even though there is still controversy in Kentucky and in the U.S. Congress about the science behind climate change, he says being prepared is the best plan.
“If we adopt new technology, we go to new sources of energy, that is going to cost," says Mahmood. "But at the same, time, if we don’t do anything, then what would be the cost 50 years from now, if it suddenly hits us, rather than we are working through it phase by phase.”
Note: An interview with Prof. Rezaul Mahmood will air on Kentucky Outlook on WKU-PBS on Sat., Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. CT, Sun., Dec. 13 at 8:30 a.m. CT and Mon., Dec. 14 at 8:30 p.m. CT. The video segment will be available on-line at wkyupbs.org on the YouTube channel beginning Tues., Dec. 15.