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A Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society

July 25th, 2008 · 9 Comments


Peak Oil. Gas Prices. Global Warming.

There are real problems and real threats with terrifying implications that merit response.  

Yet, threat and crisis creates opportunity.

We have, before us (and the US), an opportunity for transformation.

For responding to threat and handling crisis to create something better, to turn to a better path.

And, well, the question becomes how to frame and describe that opportunity.  

How about this?

Objective 2050:  A Propserous and Climate-Friendly Society


In discussing Global Warming and its threats, people call for 50% (catastrophic), 70% (disasterous), 80% (marginal), 90% (probably enough) reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. With all due respect those speaking to 2050,  such numbers are far too abstract for far too many people.  And, well, 42 years from now is a difficult thing for so many people to take seriously. And, well, that is why 1 Skyand others are calling for specific targets in the near term. 1 Sky, for example, calls for three items:

  1. Mobilize America for five million green jobs with conserving 20 percent of US energy by 2015.
  1.  Freeze climate pollution levels now and cut at least 30% by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050
  1.  Freeze coal until they can be carbon-dioxide free

Yes, there is a 2050 target, but there are near-term objectives that people can cling to.  These are meaningful goals, providing objectives in the near term that will seriously turn the nation to a better path.

And, 1 SkyStep It Up (which I urge all to participate in/join … strongly), Apollo AllianceEnergize America and others speak to the real opportunities that can emerge if we respond to these challenges in a serious way.

And, well, speaking to opportunity is critical.  

It is easy to paint Peak Oil and/or Global Warming in doom and gloom terms.  The reality and potential future paths are, well, terrifying.  Doom/gloom is easy to provide, whether it is discussing the potential for a Die Off in the face of oil depletion or havoc caused by Global Warming.  But, doom and gloom is as likely to ‘turn off’ people as mobilize them.

American Environics did an energy survey (pdf) that suggests that ‘doom/gloom’ scenarios are not shifting public opinion demands for action.

“Telling voters that global warming will lead to environmental disaster did not lead to increased support for action on global warming,” noted Dr. John Whaley who conducted the survey for American Environics.

That is fearful, to me, but note the term “environmental disaster”.  Americans have been inculcated with a belief structure that “environment” is somehow separate, something outside of ourselves, rather than the home we live within.

“In addition, when voters were told that specific proposals would lead to higher energy costs, support for policies to limit carbon dropped dramatically.”

Also, fearful.  Forget any support, I guess, for Dingell’s dingbat proposal on Global Warming.  But, again, note the language/implication:  ”higher energy costs”.  Well, how are we defining “cost”?  Do we count health issues caused by energy pollution?  What about reduced total ownership costs (TOC) through paying upfront for energy efficiency?  What about …  And, well, how would the money be spent?  Would this be a Capitalism 3.0 approach where all would share the financial benefits from charges for (ab)use of our commons? And, where revenues would go to advancing energy options and improving the energy economy?  Or, would these revenues disappear into government coffers (a laDingell’s dingbat proposal on Global Warming)?

And, according to this polling, this matters.

“What I find particularly intriguing is that the vast majority of voters (70%) think the evidence is ‘solid’ that the earth is warming, but remain more concerned about deficits and crime, and nearly as concerned about taxes than they are about the climatic shift that will no doubt have a bigger effect on their lives and their children’s lives than any of those issues,” noted Alex Evans, Principal at EMC Research. “It is clear to me that scaring people is not the way to get them to act particularly when they display such a strong interest in clean energy and American ingenuity.  Again, we find that Americans respond better when we appeal to their native optimism.”

Again, terrifying.  Talk of the evil boogeyman of “taxes” has as much (if not more) power than core concerns about their children’s lives and very ability to have a decent future.

The strong support for action to achieve energy independence, create new jobs, and lower the cost of renewable energy sources provides an opportunity to overcome voter anxiety over energy to confront global warming.

The power of the perhaps disingenuous “energy independence” frame … it sounds so good.

But, let us bring the discussion back.

* We must take action. * Many ‘targets” are inadequate * The “targets” for dealing with Global Warming are confusing * Even convinced Americans are uncertain about paying for dealing with Global Warming * Benefit-based discussions resonate better with the publicWell, the
Energize America team didn’t do so poorly.  From the introduction to the 20-point plan (v 5.0, 2006, pdf):

To provide the U.S. with Energy Security by 2020 and Energy Independence by 2040 by: 1) reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 75%, 2) reducing oil imports by 50%, 3) generating 25% of electricity from renewable sources, and 4) creating or preserving over three million new jobs by 2020.

Note that end point, three million new jobs by 2020. (Well, okay, 1Sky is beyond this … which is one (of many) reasons I support 1 Sky.)  Thus, nearer term targets, with a positive objective as part of the path to solve terrifyingly serious problems.

Yet …

How to describe that end result … what is the target .. back to the very start of this discussion.  How about stating objectives in decade terms?

Objective 2010:  Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy prioritized; carbon emission cut by 10% from 2007 levels

Objective 2020:  America on the Rebound.  A minimum of 50% of American electricity from renewable power (preferably 100% from non-carbon emissions sources, a la Al Gore’s proposal). At least, 7.5 million new jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  At least a 40% reduction in global warming causing emissions.

And, so on, until …

Objective 2050:  A Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society.

What does this mean? Let us parse the phrase:

Objective:  a target to strive for, the optimum, something that is achievable, even though we need to work hard to get there.

2050:  The mid-century, emphasizes that this is long term, an objective that requires concerted, continued effort, for generations to come.

Prosperous: that the opportunity will be there for achieving “the American Dream” — an opportunity available to all.  Prosperity — we will be richer if we turn away from today’s heavily-pulluting and wasteful energy habits. Prosperity — in health, financial, security terms.

Climate-Friendly: Greenhouse Gas (GHG)/Carbon neutral, preferable even carbon negative, figuring out ways to actually removed carbon from the atmosphere in meaningful amounts to seek to restore ‘natural’ levels of variation to turn the clock back on Global Warming, to foster global remediation of the damage we have caused.  This is an objective — a stretch goal — that would provide the path more likely to avoid utter climate catastrophe than some X% target. Also, well, 100% is easier to explain than 90% — it is time to remove humanity’s pollution above ‘background’/natural levels. It is possible to see a path there and to follow it.

Society: This is greater than “economy” and, well, this is greater than any single nation.  

A Prosperous and Climate-Friendly Society …

A world and vision to fight for …


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Tags: carbon dioxide · climate change · environmental · Global Warming

9 responses so far ↓

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