Yale e360: Days late for the news cycle, best yet on what IPCC’s third report means

    We're on our way to a greener Earth, day by day and year by year, oh boy. At least, that is how I read this post's prime selection.  Many of those who are paying close to attention to climate change these days are getting more and more worried. For those nearing despair, along comes a new offering from a somewhat contrary Brit science + enviro journalist and essayist.  I do not recall meeting the man, but he is easily envisioned as a little bit cranky and possessed of quick wit. That is, a pretty good companion over a drink or two.

   The hopeful analysis:

  • Yale e360 – Fred Pearce: UN Panel Looks to Renewables As the Key to Stabilizing Climate; In which Pearce ties two UN reports together. First is the IPCC report earlier this week (see post) on measures that might slow greenhouse gas buildup soon enough and fast enough to keep the world from punching through merely awful climate changes all the way to catastrophic. The second concerns the little-appreciated recent acceleration in renewable energy technologies and their output.

   Many and perhaps most news reports in recent years on solar, wind, biofuels and their kin have been wet blankets for hard-core climate worriers – reminding us that for all the photovoltaic panels being installed these days solar still accounts for only one or two tenths of one percent of electricity in the US. Wind is better and some places, like East Texas, are wind turbines almost horizon to horizon. But at at 1.4 percent wind is still chump change in the overall energy economy.

  Pearce's angle is however that it is not the total that counts but the trend. He turns to a recent report from an IPCC relative, the United Nations Environment Programme. While coal is still king and is spewing its exhaust into the air faster and faster, renewables are moving. Last year, UNEP statisticians concluded, 43.6 percent of global new installed power generation depended on solar, wind, biofuels, etc. This occurred despite a recent drop in investment in such facilities. The sag in money is  not good. On the bright side as costs of both wind and solar go down a dollar buys more green power than it used to.

   Gee, Pearce does not say so, but if the nuclear power industry somehow figures out how to build atomic power stations cheaper, we might have a road map to follow to some place other than energy hell.  His essay goes further to see a dramatic recent unhitching of growth in economies and in the energy they use. Europe, China, the US, are all displaying more industrial vigor without corresponding increases in energy use.

   The science of climate change seem certain to continue delivering mostly baleful prognoses of what horrors await if humankind sticks with the fossil fuel script. Media must continue to report what researches say, no matter how unwelcome it is. That fosters depression. People who feel down in the dumps have a hard time keeping busy to improve their lot. But a dash of good news, about how a route clear of disaster is opening before us, that's invigorating.  It is not as though we're doing nothing about climate change. All we must do is step up our game, one that we're already starting to master. Pearce would make a good athletic coach.

   Looking around reveals another that Fred did for e360 a year ago or so with a similar mix of problem plus solution and was circulated widely:

  • Guardian Environment Network:Technology as our planet's last, best hope ; About what he calls "environmental modernism," with a fine line here: "..the prophets of ecological modernism believe technology is the solution and not the problem …. and if environmentalists won't buy into that, then their Arcadian sentiments are the problem."


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