Monday, May 12, 2014

Baby steps on climate change add up

Juan Cole titles his article about President Obama's policy directives and executive orders promoting the use of solar energy: No Sense of Urgency: Obama's New Solar Energy Commitments are Still Just Baby Steps. To make his case, he includes one of the most mind-numbing arguments I've read in quite a while.
This set of commitments is very welcome, but it just has to be said that it isn’t nearly enough and does not express the sense of urgency on this issue that climate scientists such as James Hansen have insisted is necessary. In the medium term, Obama’s use of the Environmental Protection Agency to close the dirtiest coal plants will reduce CO2 emissions far more than will the new solar panels Obama is seeking to install or facilitate the installation of.
Did you catch that? It basically comes down to: This one thing President Obama is doing over here shows his lack of urgency on climate change because this other thing President Obama is going to do over there is WAY more important! I've seen lots of people in the media struggle with being able to put all the pieces together to see the big picture. But I'm going to have to give the prize on that one to Cole.

But at least he mentioned the upcoming EPA rules on coal plants. When it comes to previous actions the Obama administration has taken to boost the use of solar and other cleantech solutions, he simply ignores them. For example, Cole notes that a third of all new energy generation in the U.S. comes from solar. But he fails to acknowledge that is happening because President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill invested $90 billion in clean energy development, launching what Ross Andersen calls a "silent green revolution." Its also because the largest consumer of energy in the world - the U.S. Department of Defense - has gone green. A 2012 Pike research report noted why that is important beyond the military.
Military investment in renewable energy and related technologies, in many cases, holds the potential to bridge the “valley of death” that lies between research & development and full commercialization of these technologies. As such, the myriad of DOD initiatives focused on fostering cleantech is anticipated to have a substantial impact on the development and growth of the industry as a whole.
So yes, the President's announcement last week was a "baby step." But eventually a lot of baby steps begin to add up. If you want to measure President Obama's sense of urgency about this issue, I'd suggest that requires a look at the big picture.

Beyond correcting the record about President Obama's actions on alternative energy, I wanted to point this out because what Juan Cole did is a perfect example of what fuels our cynicism. Even as baby steps are being taken, they are derided as insufficient. Over time, as we label each individual initiative that way, we can assume that no real progress is being made. That is not only wrong, it saps our energy and feeds a sense of hopelessness.

I'd suggest that if we're really interested in change, we need to celebrate the hell out of each individual baby step...they add up!

1 comment:

  1. If problems actually got solved, then these people would be out of a job.

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