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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Vincent Carroll – Not Going To Pay For Climate Catastrophe

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Actually, he just might pay for some small part of it, if rapid climate change occurs more quickly than forecasted.  He doesn’t want to pay for it, that much is obvious from this weekend’s climate disinformation piece in the Denver Post by Vincent Carroll.

He tries to couch his argument in terms of looking out for undeveloped countries’ peoples “knocking on modernity’s door”.  I call shenanigans.  If you’ve read his opinion pieces before, you know Carroll is someone who looks out for himself and what he can get before everybody else has a chance.  I’m curious how many organizations Carroll has started or joined that works to introduce clean energy to those poor impoverished people he’d like us to think he cares so much about.

According to Carroll, the “climate bar is set too high”.  Developing countries won’t limit themselves to using renewable energy infrastructure and avoiding dirty energy, according to Carroll and others stuck in the 20th century energy mindset.  If Carroll has his way, countries will be forced to adopt a different path within a generation as seas rise by the inch, droughts and torrential rains afflict millions and fresh water disappears.

Most worrisome to me is this ridiculous head-in-the-sand disinformation talking point:

[…] worldwide carbon emissions must be cut in half by 2050. Among wealthy countries the goal would be 80 percent, since they’re expected to do more.

Trouble is, a reduction of that magnitude in the U.S. would result in a per-capita carbon footprint on par with today’s poorest nations. No credible scenario involving the adoption of alternative energy, nuclear power and electric cars gets us even near that level by 2050 — not without big-time technological breakthroughs or wrenching economic sacrifice.

Here, Carroll displays a major shortcoming of the free-market religion.  We most certainly can reduce our per-capita carbon footprint to 80% of 2005 (or even 1990) levels, sooner than 2050, and do so without further breakthroughs or any kind of sacrifice.  What Carroll and others don’t want is to change the way they have marched through their lives without caring for others or the planet.  They have spent a lifetime using everything with massive associated waste but without a second thought.  That is the kind of lifestyle change that must occur if we are to save our societies and the planet’s ecosystems.

Perhaps if Carroll spent more time reading detailed analyses of ways to achieve sustainable energy production and use instead of talking point memos from ideologically pure propaganda-tanks, he might recognize that the necessary transformation can easily be made in the next 20 years.

This month’s Scientific American featured an article entitled, “A Path To Sustainable Energy By 2030”.  The online version requires a digital subscription, unfortunately.  The print version is 8 pages, most of which are visual aids.  I did find this interesting related online interactive webpage which contains the same information.  Some of the highlights:

1) Power needed worldwide in 2030: 16.9TW if conventional (TW=TeraWatt=1 Trillion Watts)

Power needed worldwide in 2030: 11.5TW if renewable

The cheapest form of energy is that which we currently waste.  Take a significant portion of waste out of the system and we won’t even need to deploy as many renewables as we have non-renewables.

2) Smart mixes.  There is more wind, water and solar energy potential worldwide than will be used in 2030 – easily 650TW or so.  What we’ll have to do is use them all to provide enough power to every customer, no matter the local conditions.  That’s an achievable goal, in spite of Carroll’s disbelief otherwise.

3) Cost.  The cost of renewable energy infrastructure is equal to (wind) or higher (solar) than non-renewables today.  Part of that is due to massive government giveaways to dirty energy corporations.  Part of it is due to the scale of the technologies involved.  The cost has to and is coming down for renewables.  Smart policies are those which make the playing field even more level.  This is the biggest hole in any plan to improve from the status quo.

Europe, for example, is on pace to beat their goals set under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.  While the Cons spent the last decade trying to convince us things could never be done (ahem, Carroll), the Europeans went ahead and did them.

The plan summarized above, or dozens like it, are imminently doable.  What we need to move from is more crap from people like Carroll such as the following:

As the German publication Der Spiegel pointed out this week, climatologists aren’t even sure “why average global temperatures have stopped rising over the last 10 years . . . .

If you look at one year versus another year 10 years ago, you could delude yourself into thinking such a statement is true.  However, the 2000s will be the warmest decade in recorded human history, which is a much more climatological valid statement.  It takes the year-to-year variability out of focus and looks at long-term trends, all of which are bad and getting worse.

Americans can continue to listen to perpetual nay-sayers like Carroll, or they can look around and realize solutions exist today that will not only prevent further harm, they will secure America’s place as a technological leader well into the 21st century.

I also have a report on state-by-state renewable energy potential that I want to write about.  I will do so after my Thanksgiving trip to Chicago, which starts now.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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