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Posts Tagged ‘copenhagen’

Climate change doesn’t matter because people are worried about keeping their jobs.

Climate change doesn’t matter because people are scared that the government is trying to control them.

Climate change doesn’t matter because developing countries are trying to punish the West.

Climate change doesn’t matter because there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

Climate change doesn’t matter because scientists are human and make mistakes.

The truth is, as much as we progressive types like to talk about climate change, and as much as we all seem to spout off about Kyoto and Copenhagen and renewable energy, climate change doesn’t matter to most North Americans, and that’s not going to change if we keep using tired old talking points.

Emissions reduction is a term that means one thing to most people: reduction of productivity.  It’s a logical point of view; how can we reduce emissions while increasing output?  We need output for economic growth, and reducing output will hurt the economy.  Green collar jobs sound appealing, but it’s hard to visualize unemployed workers in Youngstown, Flint, or Oshawa smiling in front of a new “green widget factory”.

Rather than being a new Apollo Project to energize society, climate change is on its way to becoming the next H1N1, a serious issue that loses the public’s attention.  People are starting to tune out, feeling as though the whole concept is overblown, or perhaps completely made up.  Even governments in Europe will soon feel the sting of climate change backlash, if they haven’t felt it already.

So those of us who do believe in climate change, who have read about the changes in the Arctic and in Australia, and who understand that declining glaciers will cause catastrophic drought in South Asia… we need to start accepting that talking about reducing emissions is the wrong way to change the world.

What is the right way to combat a climate change that doesn’t matter?  Restoring a proper balance to the atmosphere and the oceans while continually increasing global energy production is a hundred-year strategy, and at this point we haven’t even begun.

A Global Energy Strategy

The goal of this strategy is to increase global energy production as quickly as possible, raising the standard of living for all of humanity without penalizing developed nations.  More energy allows for new technologies in agriculture, electronics, biomedicine, construction, infrastructure and transportation that will lead to reductions in poverty and disease and an increase in opportunities for the people of all nations.

We need to expand our current energy production from 15 TW to approximately 35 TW by 2050, while replacing fossil fuels before supply dwindles to the point of being uneconomical.  By 2100, the world economy will require almost 100 TW of energy.

The declining supply in available fossil fuels, combined with ocean acidification caused by uncontrolled carbon emissions and changes to weather patterns based on changing atmospheric content, are the first issues to be resolved by this strategy.  Energy production based on oil, whether for electricity or for gasoline, must be phased out first (by 2050), followed by coal and natural gas by 2100.

This phase-out can be achieved only if all viable alternatives are pursued, including increases to efficiency in production and consumption, investment in renewable energy, construction of next generation nuclear fission reactors, sequestration of carbon emissions (to safeguard our fisheries and agricultural industries) and space-based solar power.

Meanwhile, research into nuclear fusion reactors must be maintained and increased when possible, as fusion energy will be required after 2050 in order to maintain economic growth at the desired pace.  In addition, innovation in space flight must also continue, both for space-based solar power to be economically sustainable and for new raw materials and fuel sources for the Earth.

Continued economic growth depends on new energy technologies, and not on continued stagnation with fossil fuel exploitation in its current state.  All agreements on energy policy must keep long-term economic growth as the ultimate goal, and this growth will only be possible if we prevent catastrophes caused by an overreliance on fossil fuels (or any one source) for energy production.  Such catastrophes can include the destruction of fisheries, a massive decline in agricultural yields due either to changing weather patterns or to a lack of fuel for equipment, or economic depression caused by rising energy costs.

Only if the focus of government investment and a healthy dose of private money are put towards various energy solutions will we see continued economic growth over the next century.  The future progress of humanity depends on a course of positive actions towards technological improvement.

The Same Actions, A Different Point of View

Defenders of a status quo in energy production will continue to oppose technological innovation that could affect their bottom line, but the vast majority of the population, including business owners and investors, are only concerned about changes in energy policy that could affect their ability to earn a living, consume products, and maintain a lifestyle to which they’ve grown accustomed.  By focusing on increasing energy production in order to foster economic growth, rather than simply pushing for reductions in emissions, we can send a message that changes in energy policy are to replace antiquated fuels with new technologies, and that curtailing economic growth is counter to the mainstream progressive agenda.

As long as the solution touted by Al Gore and others consists mainly of emission reduction, it will be forever tied to the notion of economic reduction; the emphasis needs to be placed on better energy and more of it, and our real-life policies and solutions need to reflect that point of view.

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