I’m restarting my series on solutions to global warming, both on how to phase out fossil fuels and the best means to sequester carbon, because I consider the topic a critical one.
The carbon lobby has mostly (not entirely) given up disputing that global warming is occurring. They know that they won’t be able to confuse the public on its human-caused nature much longer.
But a final stalling tactic is open to deniers — to pretend that nothing can be done, or at least nothing that most people are willing to live with. There is an old engineering saying: “no solution, no problem.”
Converging with this, there is a small but unfortunately influential primitivist movement. In their belief that technology itself is totalitarian, they also contribute to the idea that the only solution to global warming is a drastic reduction in the technical level of civilization — perhaps down to the hunter-gatherer level. Many well-meaning, intelligent people promote a less extreme version of this trope — the conviction that we need to impoverish working people in rich nations to solve our environmental crisis and deal justly with the poorer countries.
The primary purpose of this series is to ensure that energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies become known as inexpensive fossil fuel substitutes available today, rather than a high-priced vision of tomorrow. The U.S. needs to understand that continued use of fossil fuel is a political decision rather than a technical one.
Our only choices are not destructive, expensive continued burning of fossil fuels or dramatic cuts in standard of living.
The argument that more and more global warming deniers will rely on is that it is too expensive to phase out fossil fuel use.
There is a certain absurdity to making a long series of posts refuting the idea that saving the world is too expensive. But this absurd task is also a necessary one. If the methods offered to stop global warming are too costly or too unpleasant, many people will prefer to wait and hope that technology provides some magical painless solution.
Many series, studies, and books have been written about efficiency and renewables. What will follow differs in not assuming technical breakthroughs, or drastic price drops in prices of existing technology; while these are both likely and desirable, let’s examine the cost-effective solutions available now.
Although I will deal with sources, such as wind power, the bulk of the series will deal with efficiency improvements. Please note that word is efficiency rather than conservation — gaining the same convenience and benefits with fewer emissions, rather than living with less. For example, automatic washer/dryer combinations that reduce energy use increase efficiency; clotheslines that substitute human labor for commercial dryers conserve energy and emissions. If somebody who makes a good enough living that they can afford a washer and dryer chooses to switch to a clothesline, to trade some of their time for energy savings, that is a choice; it is not the only way to reduce emissions. Similarly, while the poorest of the poor currently need clean water, sanitation,and healthy food more than any type of luxury good, it is important to show that fighting global warming does not rule out their some day having survival necessities and the luxuries many of us take for granted that can make day-to-day living easier.