Year 4, Month 4, Day 6: I’m Not The Only One

Elisabeth Rosenthal has an excellent piece in the NYT on our visions for a future energy economy:

WE will need fossil fuels like oil and gas for the foreseeable future. So there’s really little choice (sigh). We have to press ahead with fracking for natural gas. We must approve the Keystone XL pipeline to get Canadian oil.

This mantra, repeated on TV ads and in political debates, is punctuated with a tinge of inevitability and regret. But, increasingly, scientific research and the experience of other countries should prompt us to ask: To what extent will we really “need” fossil fuel in the years to come? To what extent is it a choice?

As renewable energy gets cheaper and machines and buildings become more energy efficient, a number of countries that two decades ago ran on a fuel mix much like America’s are successfully dialing down their fossil fuel habits. Thirteen countries got more than 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency, and many are aiming still higher.

Could we? Should we?

Waxing epistemological here for a minute. March 24:

Resistance to social and technological advances is always rooted in a poverty of imagination. American conservatism’s failure to entertain hypotheticals ensures that their anticipated futures are merely copies of the past — thinking vividly on display in our political and media culture as the necessity of shifting rapidly away from fossil fuels becomes obvious in the light of the climate crisis.

Actually, two mutually reinforcing failures of imagination are at work here. On one hand, the resistance to renewable energy sources, while partly explained by the undeniable cupidity of corporate interests, is at its core a refusal to allow any alternative to the approved vision of a future energy economy. On the other hand is the incapacity to imagine the terrifying realities of the present moment, in which a runaway greenhouse effect is dessicating farmlands, breaking the Arctic, and casting in doubt the future of our civilization and our species.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 5, Day 12: Pretty Soon You’re Talking Real Money

In a business section column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Andrew Ross skirts discussion of climate and energy, instead averring that (gasp!) the deficit is the biggest threat we face as a nation. Sigh. Time to drag out “quibbling over the cost of sandbags” again.

Sent May 3:

Mr. Ross’ analysis touches briefly on the elements that comprise the most significant threat to our country’s long-term security, but neglects them in favor of advocating for deficit reduction. Now, I’m all for reducing the deficit, and the Department of Defense, the biggest public sector spender, is ripe for massive cutting — but the plain and simple fact is that the devastating long-term effects of climate change will make deficit reduction (no matter where it happens) irrelevant. Without immediate steps to transform our energy economy and prepare for the consequences of climatic transformations we’ve already set in motion, no spending cuts will save us. Scientists have warned us over and over; we can no longer plead ignorance — and to resist spending on infrastructure development and disaster preparation will prove far more expensive in the long run. When floodwaters are rising is not the time to economize on sandbags.

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 14: John Kerry Gets a Valentine

It’s getting easier to dash these off. As I predicted, I now have a stock of rhetorical devices and constructions that can be strung together to set off whatever new material I’m including. Here, for example, I’m asking Kerry to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’ wonderful “10 Million Solar Roofs & 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act,” and calling his attention to Bill Gates’ recent statements on energy. These two nuggets are set in a nest of apocalyptic boilerplate.

Dear Senator Kerry —

Thank you for all your efforts in advancing the cause of meaningful legislation on climate change. This issue is without doubt the most important existential threat humanity has ever faced. Yet a significant proportion of the American public doesn’t believe it’s happening.

Our population’s tragic indifference to the fate of the planet is partly the fault of the media, which is obsessed with short-term phenomena, and partly the fault of our corrupt political system. When the time lag between climate action and climate effect is five or six times longer than the electoral cycle that rules the life of a U.S. Senator, we can see why it’s always “never the right time” to deal head-on with the issue of global warming.

And when Washington is under many feet of snow and the Republicans are mocking Al Gore on the Capitol lawn? It must be incredibly frustrating.

Please don’t give up. Keep speaking out. Keep working to educate your constituents and audiences around the country. We need to have advocates for even stronger climate measures than are presently on the table; our goal should be atmospheric CO2 in the 350 ppm range. Bill Gates just stated that we should stop all CO2 emissions by 2050, and this is a laudable goal. There is no greater threat to all of us than runaway climate change; Dr. James Hansen’s worst-case scenario can be summed up in one word: Venus.

I urge you to co-sponsor Senator Sanders’ proposed “10 Million Solar Roofs & 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act” legislation. That’s a great place to begin: by putting people to work and transforming our country’s energy equation.

Thank you again for your commitment to confronting climate-change issues. It is crucial for our children’s children and their children’s children in turn that we take effective action now. There will not be an opportunity to try again if we screw it up.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders