Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Solid Post on Obama's Climate Change Farce

Ah yes the rising of the oceans he would fix.  Not quite.  This essay is excellent.
Obama has been an utter failure on this front - he maintains the rhetoric as any REAL solution goes all to hell.

In the end, whether or not the Senate passes a cap-in-name-only climate bill, the long-term failure of Kyoto and all other efforts to establish binding emissions caps is virtually assured and is a function of a basic technological problem. We simply do not have low-carbon technologies today that can at large scale replace fossil fuels at a cost that any political economy in the world is willing to impose upon itself. There will be no political solution to climate change, no binding international agreement to substantially reduce emissions, and no effective domestic carbon cap until low-carbon technologies are much cheaper than they are today.
Unfortunately, pointing out this now fairly evident reality is viewed by most greens as an act of bad faith. In the simulated world of Hopenhagen, below-cost energy efficiency can deliver emissions reductions too cheap to meter; solar and wind power are already cheaper than coal; and "political will" along with new regulations and a modest carbon price will deliver technological miracles.
However, the technologies we need will not materialize in response to carbon prices or emissions caps. Nor will they arrive, as many conservatives would have it, by getting the government out of the way and simply allowing a new generation of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to tinker away in their garages.
Rather, we need to create a new clean energy economy in the same way we created our information economy: by identifying a set of well-defined technical problems and mobilizing the human resources of our technologically advanced civilization -- our scientists, laboratories, universities, and engineers -- to solve them.
These technical questions are not difficult to grasp and in fact have already largely been laid out by Chu in his remarks to the New York Times. How do we convert sunlight into energy much more efficiently than solar panels do today? What combination of chemicals can store more energy in batteries that are smaller and lighter? How can we manufacture a next generation of self-contained nuclear reactors that are safer, smaller, and cheaper than the large ones of the 1950s and 1960s? And how can we engineer new biological organisms to serve as a cheap fuel alternative to oil?
Solving global warming's technology challenges will require not a single Apollo program or Manhattan Project, but many. We need to solve technical problems across a range of technologies and at a variety of stages along the road from technological development to demonstration to commercialization to mass deployment.
Leaving the comfortable precincts of Hopenhagen means taking a hard look at our current predicament. A sober assessment will acknowledge that fossil fuels are remarkable sources of energy -- cheap, energy dense, and widely available. That's why oil, coal, and gas will not be easily displaced by present-day renewable-energy technologies that are expensive and intermittent, or by energy-efficiency measures that are more expensive to implement than their proponents have been willing to admit. Nor will green lifestyles and energy conservation reduce the average American's energy consumption 80 percent over 40 years.
Properly chastened, we will turn away from the phony certainty and faked urgency that proponents of today's failed, top-down, target-based approach trade in. Claims that we don't have time to wait for technological breakthroughs and the related demands for policies that supposedly guarantee rapid and assured emissions reductions have only served to delay the technological day of reckoning.
The hard work of mobilizing the resources and institutions necessary to engineer our way to a low-carbon economy will look profoundly different from both the histrionics at Copenhagen and the slick sales pitch offered by carbon traders in Washington. International agreements to share the burden and the benefits of developing better and cheaper low-carbon energy technologies will represent the central focus of international climate negotiations. Such agreements will extend well beyond simply agreeing to underwrite more laboratory research. They will require large financial commitments to demonstrate these technologies and create physical and institutional infrastructures that can support their commercialization.
Transforming the global energy economy from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives over the next 50 to 100 years is such a monumental technological undertaking that it is quite understandable that many would either declare it impossible or retreat into magical thinking. We must resist these temptations.
Solving the technology challenge will not be easy, but in terms of our collective wealth and knowledge we are in a better position today than at any other point in our history. In the end, global efforts to address the climate challenge, if they are to succeed, must centrally focus upon the creation of a new and extraordinarily important global public good: the development of low-carbon energy technologies that are cheap, clean, and abundant. After two decades of domestic and international failure to take real action on climate change, it is time for the purveyors of magical thinking to take their exit so that the main act can begin.
And Roger Pielke Jr points at another way to make much the same assessment, this one from Bill Gates, no climate scientis, but someone who gets the point:
 If CO2 reduction is important, we need to make it clear to people what really matters – getting to zero.
With that kind of clarity, people will understand the need to get to zero and begin to grasp the scope and scale of innovation that is needed.
However all the talk about renewable portfolios, efficiency, and cap and trade tends to obscure the specific things that need to be done.
To achieve the kinds of innovations that will be required I think a distributed system of R&D with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key. There just isn’t enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go.
The world is distracted from what counts on this issue in a big way.


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