photo: Gediminas Paulauskas
What follows is one of those pieces where I point out where someone says something so well that I have hardly anything to add to it. The writer is Chris Stimpson from Solar Nation and writing in Renewable Energy World he argues that of all the issues which face the United States currently (and by extension the world, but the piece is really aimed at Barack Obama) the one thing we cannot fail to get 100% right is energy and the environment.
We can pretty much muddle though all the other issues on the table—Stimpson uses the phrase "we will survive" liberally in the piece—but energy and the environment are issues of human survival on an entirely different scale than the economy, healthcare, immigration, or terrorism. Here's the statement that got be thinking 'I wish I wrote that':We Can't Get This One Even A Little Bit Wrong
...the one issue we absolutely must get right-not half or three-quarters right, in true Washington tradition, but completely right-is the one that concerns the impact of energy use on the environment and how we alleviate it. Because if we get that just a little wrong, we can't end with the phrase "we will survive."
However we as a nation and a planet choose to do it, we must reduce GHG emissions to the levels strongly recommended by international scientific panels. With our knowledge of the medieval warming period and the interglacial cycle, we can still only say that this will limit the effects of climate change to the disastrous rather than the annihilative, but the difference between these outcomes determines the survival of nations, races and species.
And it's at this point that one of the weaknesses of our largely laudable American system of government shows itself. We've always taken it as a point of pride, and an indicator of the strength of our democracy, that administrations and congresses more often than not have to accept compromises to get legislation passed.
This frequently results in laws written to conciliate those lawmakers whose districts might be disproportionately affected by a new law, and to satisfy-or mostly satisfy-the largely moderate body of opinion in America.
But tackling global warming effectively, as I've indicated, is not a task that lends itself to dilution by compromise. If cap-and-trade bills are weakened to placate senators in debt to power industry interests and win their votes, if tax breaks and subsidies that could be shifted from the oil & gas sector to strengthen alternative energy are left in place for similar reasons, if automakers are allowed to write their own leisurely timetable for creating fuel-efficient cars as their price for supporting local congresspersons, then the laws we pass will fall far short of the minimum the climate needs.
Now, as Stimpson also says in the original piece, go to Change.gov and make sure your voice is heard by the incoming Obama administration on renewable energy, climate change and other environmental issues.
Read more: It's the One Issue We Must Get Right
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