The Pragmatic Path Forward

June 20, 2019 0 Comments

For whatever reason, there has recently been a lot of “heightened discussion” about anthropogenic global warming (aka, AGW or “climate change”). It tends to go in cycles. There have been some protests in Europe recently and more than a few politicians, newspapers, and scientists have been literally proclaiming the “end of the world” (here, here, and here). What follows these episodes tends to be proposals for international agreements, lawsuits, and government “solutions” to combat the potential problem. Ireland has recently proposed banning fossil fuel cars by 2030. Give credit to them for stepping up to the plate with a dramatic proposal. Unfortunately, it probably won’t help much, because their emissions are a tiny fraction of the global contribution. In addition, renewable alternatives are not quite up to par for powering an entire society (but hopefully soon).

As you have read in previous blog posts, you know I am not a fan of lawsuits, banning things, or signing documents to solve our environmental problems. These avenues just seem to lead to more division.

In addition, there is a huge elephant in the room. Most of the people in the current and likely future world will reside in China, India, and Africa. As highlighted previous blogs entries, these areas are generally not following a path toward lower carbon emissions, but instead building more fossil fuel infrastructure. Even if the U.S. and Europe completely dropped fossil fuels, it would barely dent the potential/forecast future temperature rise. It might not even be measurable.

All the protests and all the declarations are meaningless if the most populous countries in the world are not participating. No one is protesting against fossil fuels in China – so it is unlikely that things will change.

It is not all bleak, though. The United States has taken the world lead in lowering carbon emissions and we could continue to do the same in the future. In fact, we need to do the same in the future in order to have a cleaner world. So what happened in the United States? Energy companies developed hydraulic fracturing to recover cheap natural gas. Natural gas is a much less carbon intensive form of fossil fuel. We could do better. We could develop better nuclear power and continue to fund solar power.

A very pragmatic way to ensure less impact on the environment in the future is develop cleaner and cheaper energy technology today. If we put the effort and funding (public, private, and charity) in today, China, India, and Africa will adopt the technology tomorrow. Sacrificing by not driving or reducing your impact is great. I do it all the time. Sacrificing by volunteering your time and money toward clean energy projects (if even just solar panels for your house) could pay-off even greater around the world in the future.

 

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