Lots o’ goodies
The Nation has devoted its current issue to "surviving the climate crisis," and it’s chock full o’ good stuff.
First up is Jim Hansen, the World’s Least Censored Censored Scientist, who recommends the following five steps:
- "First, there should be a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants until we have the technology to capture and sequester the CO2."
- A gradually increasing price on CO2 emissions.
- Energy-efficiency standards.
- A National Academy of Sciences panel to study ice-sheet stability and nonlinear ice-sheet collapse.
- Reform of government communication practices.
Next up is Christian Parenti, who gets a lot of things forcefully and eloquently right in this piece, but muddies the water with a title and a lead conceit that doesn’t particularly fit the rest of the article. Small-scale hydro, solar thermal, and vehicle-to-grid all get mentioned, but because there will still be large-scale wind farms, support for decentralized generation is a bit of quaint nostalgia? That seems strained.
Then there’s Doug Henwood, noting that global political and economic elites have gotten on board re: climate change, but still favor solutions (e.g., cap and trade) that are not equal to the task. Naturally, Henwood, like everyone not a politician or a potential taxee, prefers a carbon tax.
Then Mark Hertsgaard (again) offers a piece on adaptation, noting that rich countries caused the problem and thus far are doing virtually nothing to help the developing world adapt to the nasty results.
Then the delightfully named Elizabeth Economy notes that China’s development threatens to tip the climate over into chaos, Matthew Gilbert notes that climate change is going to screw the Gwich’in tribe, A. C. Thompson & Duane Moles raise all the usual doubts about carbon offsets, Lawrence Weschler surveys artistic responses to climate change, and George Monbiot says (again) that flying’s not gonna fly in a warming world.
And finally, saving the best for last: Jeff Goodell on clean coal. It’s a must read, though unfortunately available only to subscribers. Here’s my favorite bit:
Big Coal has good reason to fear a crackdown on CO2. Coal’s ace in the hole has always been that it’s cheap. Of course, coal is cheap in the same way that fast food is cheap — because all the health and environmental costs are offloaded onto the public and not included in the bottom line. But when a price tag is attached to CO2 emissions, that calculation will change. A new study from MIT estimates that deploying carbon capture and storage will raise the wholesale price of electricity from new coal plants by 50 percent (this may be a conservative estimate — other studies have put the price nearly twice as high). If the price of coal-fired power increases 50 percent, a log of people will as, Why bother?
By all means, let’s praise innovative companies that take risks with new technology, and let’s boost federal funding for carbon capture and storage research–the more we know about the costs and risks of burying CO2 the better. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture here. Coal is the fuel of the past, not the future. The sooner we muster up the courage to admit that, the sooner the revolution can begin.
("Coal is the fuel of the past, not the future" has a certain ring to it, but it’s no "coal is the enemy of the human race.")