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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
In a welcomed move to embrace the inevitable, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a report suggesting that renewable energy sources could meet 80% of all energy needs within our lifetimes:
Renewable sources such as solar and wind could supply up to 80 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and play a significant role in fighting global warming, a top climate panel concluded Monday.
But the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that to achieve that level, governments would have to spend significantly more money and introduce policies that integrate renewables into existing power grids and promote their benefits in terms of reducing air pollution and improving public health.
There is nothing here that should surprise anyone, but the report will undoubtedly be attacked by the science-phobic Luddites of the fringe right. Already, there are indications that the initial findings of the panel were watered down in order to satisfy oil-giants Saudi Arabia and Qatar:
Greenpeace and other environmentalists said Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two oil-rich states that don’t have an interest in alternatives, successfully watered down the report’s language on the cost benefits of renewables – a charge the Saudis denied.
Obviously, there are still major hurdles to be overcome in the transition to renewable energy. But these obstacles are hardly insurmountable, and their existence should by no means discourage us from attempting to make that transition. Fossil fuels are part of an old paradigm: they are dirty, polluting, inefficient, and increasingly difficult to extract. Simply because we have been using them for so long, and because ongoing reliance on them appears to be the easiest course of action, is not a sufficient reason to continue doing so.
Why are people so afraid of the inevitable green revolution? There are numerous factors, the most prevalent perhaps being the massive miseducation campaign undertaken by the fossil fuel industry. People are led to believe that fossil fuels have only a minimal impact on the environment, that anthropogenic climate change is a myth, and that green energy is an impossibility. Proponents of environmental awareness and a switch to renewable energy are portrayed as radical fanatics, intent on returning humankind to a pre-science era where man lived in subservience to nature. The major irony, of course, is that it is in fact modern science which tells us that our addiction to fossil fuels is placing us in very real danger.
Throughout recorded history, humans have demonstrated a tenacious tendency to resist change. New theories and forms of technology are invariably greeted with open skepticism at best, but in many cases outright hostility. Eventually, of course, as the science builds and the facts become irrefutable, or as the benefits of the technology become irrefutably obvious, even the most fervent opponents are forced to adapt. Such is the nature of humankind: we fear the unknown and cling to the familiar. And rather expectedly, such is the case with the not-so-recent scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-made, and that a switch to renewable energy sources is not only pragmatic, but absolutely essential.
Even understanding this basic element of human psychology, it is extremely difficult to comprehend, in our modern, scientifically-blessed society, the overt hostility and skepticism that exists towards green energy. It is science that has allowed us to lead such long comfortable lives, yet the very same people who consume modern medicines, fly from coast to coast, and surf the Web while watching commercial-free satellite TV also shun the scientific findings which assert, rather unambiguously, that we must end our dependence on fossil fuels. The level of ignorance – hypocrisy – is utterly astounding.
The IPCC report is correct in principle, but I think it grossly overestimates the costs, and underestimates the results we can achieve. Should humans choose to make a concerted effort, we could likely meet 80% of our energy needs with renewable sources within two decades, not four. If we spent half as much on developing solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy technologies as we do on weapons and war, we could likely do even better, and faster.
It’s simply a matter of reshuffling our priorities. Would we rather continue to maim and kill each other, or actually prosper and grow?