So, I’m eating lunch at my favorite local Indian place with my friend Eric Roston today. Roston’s the author of The Carbon Age, a brilliant, definitive book about carbon as a structural element in life and civilization. So, over some tasty Tandoori Chicken, the conversation fortunately veers away from molecular composition and astrophysics to something I can at least talk about: ethics. Roston makes the point that the climate issue is the perfect moral quandary: any actions you and I take to try to arrest the build-up of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere will have little to no impact during our lives. We simply won’t see it, since CO2 emissions have atmospheric lifetimes of 100-150 years, and sometimes a lot more.
Are our political and economic systems equipped to handle long-term, complex, moral issues? So far, no.
Check out this nice blog post, with a video of Roston on the Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Roston holds his own pretty well. Funny!
Google’s Energy team put out a strategy in October called “Google 2030,” which makes a strong case for smart investments in clean energy. Like most everything Google does, it is smart, thorough, and transparent — they’ve improved it quite a bit with public comments in the past six months (why can’t the federal government work this way?). It targets some aggressive but realistic goals, which not only help address climate change, but reduce pollution and get us well on our way to using renewable energy at scale. Some highlights: it aims to reduce fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%; reduce vehicle oil consumption by 44%; reduce dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 37%; reduce electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%; reduce personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 44%; reduce US CO2 emissions overall by 49% (41% from today’s CO2 emission level).
Does everyone have an agenda? Sure. Google’s is to have cheaper, sustainable energy in the long run so their massive server farms don’t become a PR nightmare in CA during the next generation. Oh, and it might help their bottom line. And Google knows that utilities are essentially monopolies, so we need government intervention in making the move toward cleaner alternatives. Is the US federal government up to the task?
What’s one way forward? Read Google’s HOW TO.