Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Hope for controlling climate change

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Hope feels a lot better than despair. Here’s a hopeful article by David Leonhardt in the NY Times on progress in attacking climate change, and I would imagine that a couple more summers like the current summer will engage the attention of the citizenry so that more pressure in the right direction may be brought to bear. The article begins:

YOU don’t have to be a climate scientist these days to know that the climate has problems. You just have to step outside.

The United States is now enduring itswarmest year on record, and the 13 warmest years for the entire planethave all occurred since 1998, according to data that stretches back to 1880.  No one day’s weather can be tied to global warming, of course, but more than a decade’s worth of changing weather surely can be, scientists say. Meanwhile, the country often seems to be moving further away from doing something about climate change, with the issue having all but fallen out of the national debate.

Behind the scenes, however, a somewhat different story is starting to emerge — one that offers reason for optimism to anyone worried about the planet. The world’s largest economies may now be in the process of creating a climate-change response that does not depend on the politically painful process of raising the price of dirty energy. The response is not guaranteed to work, given the scale of the problem. But the early successes have been notable.

Over the last several years, the governments of the United States, Europe and China have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on clean-energy research and deployment. And despite some high-profile flops, like ethanol and Solyndra, the investments seem to be succeeding more than they are failing.

The price of solar and wind power have both fallen sharply in the last few years. This country’s largest wind farm, sprawling across eastern Oregon, is scheduled to open next month. Already, the world uses vastly more alternative energy than experts predictedonly a decade ago.

Even natural gas, a hotly debated topic among climate experts, helps make the point. Thanks in part to earlier government investments, energy companies have been able to extract much more natural gas than once seemed possible. The use of natural gas to generate electricity — far from perfectly clean but less carbon-intensive than coal use — has jumped 25 percent since 2008, while prices have fallen more than 80 percent.Natural gas now generates as much electricity as coal in the United States, which would have been unthinkable not long ago. . .

Continue reading. He makes the point that the success of alternatives makes cap-and-trade or carbon taxes not so urgent, though obviously the combination of cheaper alternatives and more expensive fossil fuels would be even better—and two more summers hotter than this summer may push cap-and-trade and/or carbon tax into the “acceptable” column even if not all the way to “desirable.” Things change.

Written by Leisureguy

22 July 2012 at 5:13 pm

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