The Skywriter

Why climate change is an essential part of our argument for clean energy

3
Feb

Why climate change is an essential part of our argument for clean energy

Climate Change Blackboard

The Obama administration seems to think "climate change" is too divisive to mention, but underwriting clean energy tech? That's bipartisan.

Surprisingly, conservative commentators didn't seem to buy it. Why? Government intervention, absent a large-scale emergency, goes against basic conservative philosophy. All they see is needless government intervention into energy technology, and they have a point. Absent climate change, where is the urgency?

Let’s take coal. Absent climate change, what’s wrong with coal? OK, maybe quite a bit… For one thing, coal plants pump toxic chemicals into our air: arsenic, lead, mercury, and carbon dioxide (or global warming pollution for you climate buffs) for starters. The health effects of mercury alone have gotten more than a few communities riled up.

But we can solve that. Maybe not scientifically, but with a few dollars here on PR, and a few dollars there on lobbying, and voilà! Dirty coal is “clean,” and now it’s a part of our clean energy future. That sounds great! Oh wait, that technology is untested, unproven, dangerous, and we aren’t really sure it exists.

Well, absent climate change issues, we're still talking about competitiveness and jobs, right? Actually, coal barely rivals wind in job production. Yup, that’s right: coal, responsible for 50% of our energy, can barely rival the jobs in the wind industry, responsible currently for less than 15% of our energy.

No jobs AND weird toxic chemicals? We should intervene! That can’t be a good investment, certainly not with the competitiveness of our nation on the line. Let’s jump to David Roberts over at Grist:

…the argument for strong, focused government policy in support of clean energy -- in the absence of climate change -- is no stronger than the argument for supporting pharmaceuticals, or telecom, or any other industry that's likely to be big in the 21st century."

It’s hard to overcome the greater good argument: coal has created a health crisis, but we can’t just eliminate 50% of America’s energy. Why should the government play favorites? Back to David:

What could add the exogenous pressure to overcome the U.S. elite's general distaste for government meddling? What could add the sense of urgency necessary to justify immediate and substantial public spending? What elevates the need for RD&D in clean energy above the need for RD&D in other industries and technologies? Right: the looming threat of climate change.

Well put, David.

Right: climate change. This is your call to action. Don’t let climate change slip away. Don’t let them tell you that it’s a battle not worth the fight. There is a reason why intervening in support of clean energy is different that intervening in other industries: because coal plants are expelling excessive amounts of carbon pollution responsible for even more than millions of asthma attacks in small children: they are contributing to a full-on climate crisis. Floods, cyclones, tsunamis, droughts: all of it.

This is your moment, so yell it from the rooftops. There is a climate crisis happening right now. Right on, David:

We won't act with the scope, scale, and speed necessary unless the threat of climate change is widely understood to be real and urgent.

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