On the Energy Gap and Climate Crisis  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Andrew Revkin has a few thoughts on energy and climate - On the Energy Gap and Climate Crisis.

1) Energy matters. Energy can produce bountiful supplies of drinking water. Energy enables food production, storage and dispersal. Energy enables mobility, connectedness, health and comfort. The late Nobelist in chemistry, Richard Smalley, devoted the last years of his life to delivering an admirable distillation of the benefits of abundant energy, and need for an energy quest.

2) Even with spreading efforts to conserve energy, a world heading toward roughly 9 billion people seeking decent lives will require far more of this resource than today’s supplies and systems can provide. There is already an enormous energy gap on the planet, with some 2 billion people lacking the simple gift of illumination or a clean source of heat for cooking meals.

3) If countries like China and India follow the American pattern in transportation, ballooning demand for oil is bound to be a disruptive influence on world affairs with or without the climate impact of all those additional emissions of greenhouse gases. Think of it this way; the United States, with 307 million ( heading toward 400 million) people, now consumes nearly 20 million barrels a day; India, with more than 1.1 billion people, is barely in first gear, currently using 2.67 million barrels of oil but poised for vastly increased demand. Add in projections of car use in China and you see why status-quo fuel choices don’t hold up.

4) If humanity stays stuck on the coal rung of the “heat ladder” for another generation, there’s an unacceptable risk of driving disruptive, long-lasting shifts in climate through the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

5) Nonetheless, if I had to choose one of two bumper stickers for our car — CLIMATE CRISIS or ENERGY QUEST — I’d choose the latter. This doesn’t mean I reject the idea that we face a climate crisis. I just don’t think that phrase is a productive way to frame this challenge, particularly as defined over the last few years in the heated policy debate. The definition I’d choose is much like the one stated by Richard Somerville of the University of California, San Diego, during a climate debate several years ago over the proposition that “ Global Warming is Not a Crisis.” ...

6) The world is not remotely engaged in the kind of energy quest that would be required to fill the gaps defined above. I’m talking about a sustained quest, from the household light socket to the boardroom, the laboratory to the classroom, the smart post-industrial American city to the struggling, (literally) powerless sub-Saharan village. This is not some onerous task, but an active, positive assertion that the ways we harvest and use energy — an asset long taken for granted and priced in ways that mask its broader costs — really do matter. Dry places do this with water all the time. In Israel, there is no toilet without two flush options. It’s not some goofball green concept; it’s just the way things are done.

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