Is it the job of environmentalists, renewable energy companies, and scientists to prove that renewable energy is scalable (able to replace the amount of energy we desire) now? It appears as though it is when Climate Change discussions focus on whether renewable energy is ready to fully substitute for the current energy of choice.
Environmentalist find themselves in the absurd position of having to prove -- to the public, to the media, and (even more absurdly) to economists -- that existing renewable energy options and costs can compete with fossil fuels in order to replace our dependence on fossil fuels. Many environmental groups, in their heroic attempts to appear optimistic and hopeful about a situation that becomes more dire each day, have in effect promised that humanity can shift quickly to clean, renewable energy options (yes, I’ve been doing this myself). But is it appropriate or even useful to place responsibility for proving this extraordinary claim on the folks explaining the threats of Climate Change, instead of on the very individuals and institutions whose job it is to make our energy options doable and sustainable.
In fact, those pushing for rise of renewable energy and the fall of fossil fuels are doing a superb job at making the case that renewable energy is scalable, fair, and they are even advocating policies to help workers with the transition from bad energy to good. But the conversation about addressing Climate Change continues to be hijacked by scalability and costs and jobs, which are always couched as “gotcha” issues. This allows the public the dangerous delusion that there is an option when there isn’t (suggesting that we can do something else if renewables aren’t scalable). Continuing to burn fossil fuels will perilously warm our planet, period. There’s no either or.
If surviving is a top priority, there is no choice between the renewable energy camp and the fossil fuel camp. It’s like saying humanity has two choices: We can play Russian roulette with one bullet in the chamber or none. If you wish to continue to live, leaving bullets in the gun’s chamber will eventually lead to your demise. (Ok, it’s technically a choice but only for insanely suicidal people.)
Isn’t it enough to make the case that renewable energy won’t warm the planet beyond dangerous limits, whereas continuing our addiction on fossil fuels will? Climate deniers get quite smug about demonstrating to environmentalists, the public, and the media that renewable energy just isn’t up to snuff on providing for our energy needs. They have more facts to back up their position than you can shake a stick at.
But think about this: Shouldn’t it be the job of our economists and politicians to either show how our present economic system is capable of enabling renewables to provide for our energy needs, or else show us an alternative economic system that is? Isn’t it the job of the economists, the engineers, the politicians to make renewable energy work on a scale that will matter?
Think about this too: What if environmentalists and renewable energy companies fail to make the case that renewable energy as it exists right now is scalable, is able meet our present and future energy demands? If environmentalists and renewable energy companies cannot provide all the energy we want to do whatever we want, despite the proof that manmade Climate Change will bring our life support system to a screaming halt, does that mean we should continue business as usual and destroy human civilization?
Much of the heavy lifting at the COP21 Paris Climate Summit will be shaping a worldwide structure for an energy option that won’t threaten our existence. The net effect of those opposing renewable energy will be a few more years of profitability and then a quick collapse as the economics of stranded assets and biophysics overcome our ability to adapt.
Historically we have treated environmentalist as the complainers along the way to our development of a super species. Because we have put the burden of proof of environmental damage on the victims, we’ve created the absurd stance that only a relatively small group of people need our environment.
Environmentalists cannot save the world, while the rest go out and shop. We’re too few. All we can really do is ask that the rest of humanity focus on the priority of a life support system that supports us all. If we don’t quickly change the Climate Change discussion so that humanity accepts responsibility for this worldwide crisis, we will perish.
Make renewable energy work!
That is why we ask that thousands come to the streets this weekend to show our support for an ambitious deal at the COP21 Paris Summit that will avert the worst impacts of climate change. In Rochester, come…
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