You really can’t find a better place for purely pragmatic thinking about energy and climate issues that you can find at The Breakthrough Institute. The relatively small, upstart, environmental think tank has a way of cutting through all of the ideological morass and getting right to what really needs to happen if we want to realistically find solutions that work for our environment, health and economy.
Yesterday’s post on their blog is a great example of their commonsensical approach. In response to a new book called ‘The Climate Fix’, they have this to say:
Historians remind us that most events only become intelligible after the passage of a certain amount of time, and climate policy is no exception. After 20 years of failure to reduce emissions through pollution regulations it is today clear that whether or not humankind does anything about human-caused warming turns centrally on the question of whether or not we invent inexpensive alternatives to traditional fossil fuels.
The failure of the U.N. process in Copenhagen, the fourth failure of cap and trade in the Congress, the ineffectiveness of emissions trading in Europe — these, according to The Climate Fix, were consequences of unworkable public policies colliding with the political economy of cheap fossil energy and the lack of cheap alternatives.
While media attention has tended to focus on the proximate obstacles to climate policy — fearful politicians, corporate resistance, low public concern — the heart of the problem, writes Pielke, Jr., is “the iron law of climate policy”: no nation is going to sacrifice its economic growth for global warming.
While the iron law might seem obvious, it has, for different reasons, been rejected by both political left and right for much of the last 20 years.
Both sides ignore the crux of this issue… for very different reasons. The right wants to deny the need altogether, and the left tries, true to form, to just impose governmental controls, regardless of the economic impact. Both have been failing us, and yet they do not see what is right in front of their faces. The focus needs to be on lowering the cost of energy produced cleanly. Work is being done on this now, and it should be given help.
There are no silver bullets, but a combination of improvements in wind in the short to medium term, and new solar voltaics in the medium to long term, on top of hopeful advances in energy storage and base load power generation like enhanced geothermal and nuclear technology that can actually generate power by eating nuclear waste from other plants… the technology is coming. We just need to push it so it comes in time… and stop quibbling over other things in the mean time.