Monday, January 21, 2008

Obstacles to Minimizing Global Warming

In earlier articles we discussed the technical challenges of preventing massive economic and environmental dislocations because of climate change. Actually, the world has the capability to meet those challenges if it has the will.

For example, the United States transformed itself from an agricultural nation in the depths of an economic depression into an industrial giant able to manufacture the hardware needed to defeat the Axis powers in five years even with millions of its able-bodied men and women in military service. Compared with that, converting energy away from fossil fuels is easy.

The problems arise from attitude.

First there is the problem of skepticism about global warming. The evidence isn't just strong, it's conclusive. Yet people have made up their minds not to accept it. You can find them on the web even if you don't want to. Any criticism of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, justified or not, from any person, qualified or not, is touted to be the final "debunking" (a term much in fashion) of climate-change science.

Overcoming this obstinacy should be the easiest part of the problem to solve, but we can't even accomplish this much.

Next is the perverse refusal of nuclear opponents, all of whom claim the mantle of Defenders of the Environment, to acknowledge the clear necessity of nuclear energy for minimizing climate change. The same Defenders of the Environment deny both the environmental benefits of nuclear energy and the limitations of part-time energy sources.

We see some erosion of this monolithic inertia among more thoughtful members of the public, but the executives at the major international anti-nuclear political organizations aren't budging.

Then, assuming these problems can be overcome (or possibly ignored), we face the difficulty of implementing solutions.

Perhaps there will be local opposition to construction of nuclear power plants. But wind farms already are seeing fierce opposition. And the fights over solar panels haven't begun. When utility ratepayers realize how much they're paying to subsidize their neighbors' rooftop panels they'll do one of two things. Some of them will decide to cash in on the program. But if too many people do that the program will collapse from the expense. So all the people left out will see their rates go up dramatically. Before it's over you will hear people say they wish they'd never heard of solar energy.

What's left is conservation. And conservation is always the preferred nostrum; whenever energy and global warming come up, conservation is always our best and brightest hope.

But conservation means more than putting in compact-fluorescent lightbulbs and recycling wine bottles. It even means more than junking our SUVs and buying hybrid cars. It means smaller houses and no vacation homes. It means giving up motorhomes and cabin cruisers and recreational flying. No more flying vacation trips.

Sounds discouraging, no? It is discouraging if stubborn, misinformed people are allowed to dictate the world's energy future. But there is a way to solve this, and that will be the next articles's subject.

1 comment:

Mizero Jocelyn said...

I've been thinking about this thing of global warming as it was my homework assignment.This is being a great challenge to the earth than people can possibly imagine.It is simply seen that grown- ups are the ones with a great effect to this. But i have a question. what will us children be left with as inheritance,after the earth is terribly destroyed by you grown-ups? Think about it and if sacrifice is to be made, then go ahead for the sake of your beloved kids. SAVE THE WORLD.