Myth: Tackling climate change requires fundamental technological breakthroughs
No myth has done more to lull Americans into complacency or allow bad actors to fight off good policy.
The American people are deeply attached to the notion that any problem can be solved with a new doohickey. It would, after all, relieve them of the terrible responsibility of saving the world. (Surely a clever scientist in a lab somewhere will invent a Climate Stabilizer and we can all stop worrying about this nonsense!)
The powers that be in the energy world are deeply invested in persuading legislators that the technology just isn’t ready yet — that’s why it’s premature to start mandating emission reductions. This is what the perpetually-ten-years-away “clean coal” is all about. More research!
It’s not hard to see the appeal of a techno-fix. The alternative to whizbang new technology is a list of thousands of changes in regulation, legislation, behavior, and thinking, each one demanding the country’s collective attention, wits, and wherewithal. It can seem overwhelming.
But a) fundamental breakthroughs in energy technology are extraordinarily rare, b) we don’t have time to wait for them, and c) nothing spurs learning like doing. The best way to figure out better techniques and technologies is to start deploying the hell out of what’s already here.
More stories in this series:
Environmentalists and economists alike are obsessed with putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, and with good reason: climate pollution is a classic “externality,” a cost paid not by polluters but by society at large. Pricing carbon internalizes that cost. …
To hear some people talk, you’d think the greatest danger of government intervention in the energy sector is that it will “distort the market.” Poor, tender market. In fact, energy markets would give Adam Smith the screaming willies. The world’s …
Legislators from dirty-energy producing states, energy-intensive business lobbies, and conservative think tanks struggle to outdo one another with apocalyptic predictions about the effects of mandatory greenhouse gas emission reductions. See, for example, the Chamber of Commerce’s video showing children shivering …
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