Energy Secretary: U.S. Does Not Need '100 Percent Certainty' To Act On Climate Change

By Nicholas Ballasy | November 30, 2010 | 3:10 PM EST


Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

( - U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu had a message for climate change skeptics during his speech at the National Press Club on Monday saying the U.S. does not need “100 percent certainty” in order to act on climate change. 

The moderator asked Chu, “Among the Republican majority in the House are several fairly vocal climate change skeptics. Given the increasing vocal voices on the climate change debate and criticism of climate change science, do you anticipate that you will be going back to fighting the climate change debate itself rather than pushing for solutions to it?”

“Well, I hope not. I think that if anything, over the last half dozen years the evidence has gotten more compelling but the issue but; I think sometimes you get a little bit sideways on this debate if you say, ‘have you proven with 100 percent certainty that this is happening and some bad things as you, what you say, what the climate scientists are saying, are happening,” Secretray Chu responded.

“I maintain, you don’t need 100% certainty. You know, 80, 90 percent, and maybe if half the bad things that happen with 80 or 90 percent certainty is enough to say, ‘Okay, how do you want to plan your personal life?’”

Chu was also asked if he is “concerned that the economics for fixing the climate are now impossible” given that Congress will likely not be able to pass legislation that would set a price on carbon.

“I think a price will be placed on carbon eventually worldwide and we’re going to go forward with what we can do now,” said Chu.

He added, “It is certainly true; carbon capture and storage, if you have a stationary emitter like a coal plant, a gas plant, a cement plant, to the immediate microcost of that industry, it will always cost more to capture the carbon and store it. That’s equivalent to saying that if you’re a city and you get into an abstract debate as to whether you want to treat the sewage or just dump it into the river, the immediate lowest cost is to just dump it in river.”

Chu continued, “It’s cheaper for you but it is not cheaper for the city downstream and so the total integrated cost of the effects of doing this are much, much cheaper if you say, ‘no it’s better to treat it at the source and eliminate that and so, we, this is why there should be a price on carbon.”