The dialogue between this country’s youth and key decision-makers during the important Focus the Nation (FTN) event on January 31st has the potential to become diluted and confused. If it does, another opportunity to move a segment of the country towards seriously addressing climate change will have been wasted.
Shotgun Approach Falls Short
Although every personal effort at reducing energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions is laudable and helps change the way we think about global warming, taking the shotgun approach to emissions reductions is simply not enough. Time is extremely short, and we must act immediately and boldly if we are to avert a climate crisis.
The Silver Bullet
Contrary to what many are saying, there is a “silver bullet” solution to global warming, and it is time we, as a nation, faced up to it.
By calling for “no more coal,” we not only immediately cap GHG emissions, but we also meet the reductions needed to avert dangerous climate change. Why? Because coal is the only fossil fuel plentiful and supposedly cheap enough to push the planet to 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere — the threshold set by the scientific community beyond which we will trigger dangerous tipping points.
What does “no more coal” mean? It means first a U.S. and then a global moratorium on the construction of any new conventional, GHG-emitting coal plants, and the gradual phasing out of existing plants by 2050. This results in an immediate cap on GHG emissions while allowing time to retrain coal workers for other jobs.
Oil and gas consumption will not get us to 450 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. We are now reaching the peak in global oil and, soon, natural gas production. As oil and gas peak, production and consumption will decline, prices will increase, and alternative fuels will become more economically attractive. After they peak, oil and gas depletion rates will stretch out over many years. To quote NASA’s Dr. James Hansen from his recent personal testimony before the Iowa Utilities Board:
It is clear that Congress does not “get it.” They stand ready to set a goal of 60% reductions, 80%, 90%! Horse manure. Those are meaningless numbers, serving nothing but their campaign purposes. Before you cast a vote for a politician, ask whether they will support actions that can actually solve the problem.
The most important question, by far, is the moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in the United States and Europe, the places that have created the climate problem. Until we take that action, we have no basis for a successful discussion with China, India, and other developing countries.
Coal will determine whether we continue to increase climate change or slow the human impact. Increased fossil fuel CO2 in the air today, compared to the pre-industrial atmosphere, is due 50% to coal, 35% to oil, and 15% to gas. As oil resources peak, coal will determine future CO2 levels.”
If we do not stop coal, we do not make it. It’s that simple.
The beauty of a “silver bullet” solution to the climate crisis is that it joins us together around a single, powerful goal, concentrating our efforts and magnifying our effectiveness in solving the problem1.
Face It Webcast on January 30-31, 2008
To get this message out, and to show how we can meet our energy needs without coal, the nonprofit research organization Architecture 2030 will be hosting a nationwide webcast, called Face It: There is a Solution to Global Warming. To help kick off and input the Focus the Nation dialogue, the Face It webcast will be broadcast from Architecture 2030’s website, www.architecture2030.org. It can be viewed any time after 9:00 a.m. EST on January 30, making it easy to substitute the half-hour webcast for classes or watch together in an office meeting.
During the webcast, Architecture 2030 will unveil two competitions about the solution to global warming, with $20,000 in prize money. Students will be asked to create something (you’ll have to tune in to the webcast to learn what) that will reverberate throughout their campus and society at large.
The Face It webcast will build on the information provided during Architecture 2030’s highly successful webcast, The 2010 Imperative Global Emergency Teach-in. The Teach-in, which broadcast live in February 2007, reached a quarter of a million students, design professionals, and government officials worldwide (in 47 countries).
1 Nuclear energy, “clean coal,” and unconventional fossil fuels such as oil shale and tar sands are not responsible or realistic replacements for conventional coal. In addition to the many social, environmental, storage, security, and proliferation issues associated with nuclear power, a single nuclear power plant costs billions of dollars and takes 8 to 12 years to get on line. “Clean coal,” i.e., carbon capture and sequestration, by the industry’s own admission, is 20 years out, if it is proven feasible and economically viable. Oil shale and tar sands are energy-intensive fuels to produce. Without conventional coal as a cheap energy source for mining, processing, and transporting these fuels, they cannot economically compete with conservation and renewables (solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal).