Chapter 7. "Energy and emissions"

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Chapter 7. "Energy and emissions" pages 147 - 171

Chapter 7. "Energy and emissions" is the title of the seventh Chapter in the book Transcending Politics by David Wood.

"What’s the point of extending our potential lifespans (as discussed in the previous chapter), if the planet upon which we are living suffers an ecological collapse? Who cares about extra medicines that could undo the damage of cellular aging, if we’re unable to undo the damage we’re collectively inflicting on our environment, via greenhouse gas emissions and other chemical distortions? Why bother about reducing the build-up of trauma within our biological bodies, if the trauma in our atmosphere, our oceans, and our countryside grows inexorably?
The structure of the argument in this chapter mirrors that of its predecessor. That chapter started by lamenting society’s apparent inability to reduce the escalating costs of healthcare. This chapter starts by lamenting our apparent collective inability to reduce the escalating risks of runaway global warming. In both cases, the answer to the lament should be straightforward. A techno-optimist would say, don’t worry: better technology will take care of things. In both cases, my response is: It’s more complicated than that. Better technology will only work its magic if society actively steers technological development in the right direction. And that will probably be a lot harder than it sounds."

- David Wood, Executive Director, Transpolitica[1]

The potential of green technology

From one point of view, it's absurd that there's any risk of greenhouse gas emissions pushing the planet into any danger territory. Instead of making such heavy use of carbon-based fuels, such as oil, gas, and coal, we should be transitioning rapidly to greener, cleaner energy sources. After all, it is frequently remarked that the earth receives from the sun enough energy in a single hour to meet all human needs for energy for a whole year.

Technology is not enough (again)

April 30th 2017 saw the nation of Germany reach a new high point in the production of renewable energy. For several hours that day, 85% of the electricity generated in Germany came from renewable energy sources: solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, hydroelectric, and biomass[2].

Unreliable politics

On the last of these points, opinions differ on how quickly changes ought to be taking place towards energy policies that are more sustainable. These options vary widely in their assumption ...

A disappointing decade

I've been researching and writing about climate change for more than ten years. Over that period of time, I've seen plenty of evidence of systemic inertia - factors which, in aggregate, allow only modest changes in the make-up of our energy usage.

The countdown to climate catastrophe

One of the main reasons why large-scale real-world action has made such slow progress, over the last decade, is the extent of skepticism regarding the future impacts of climate change. In some cases, the skepticism is made explicit. In many other cases, it remains implicit.

A proper price for externalities

I don't claim any certainty regarding timescales for climate catastrophe. There are too many unknowns involved. Politicians, along with other members of society, can find, if they wish, plenty of reasons to delay action.

What Milton Friedman would do

Concepts such as pollution tax and carbon tax have a long heritage. Doyen of libertarian economics, Milton Friedman, spoke positively about the idea as long ago as 1979. He was replying to a question...

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