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Intentional Ignorance

November 6, 2012

I wrote this essay to offer some essential information about our world and the future of our species, adding my voice to the many cries of alarm over the environmental crisis (lately reaching criticality). [More…]

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Establishment Politicians Be Damned. The People Have Had Enough.

The U.S. presidential election has finally demonstrated that the people have had it. They are rising up in large numbers to let establishment politicians know they won’t take it anymore. The surge of Donald Trump to the head of the Republican Party has confounded nearly everyone. But his populist appeal has won the day—with however crazy the vessel of that anger might be to thinking adults.

Crowd of peopleThe amazing crowds also drawn to Bernie Sanders rallies in the Democratic Party make the same point, with a similar message: We’ve had it with traditional politicians who line their pockets with huge financial gifts from wealthy donors determined to bend public policy toward their greed for money and power.

But in the most important area of all, the first of these protest movements misses the mark while the second is right on target. That is the likelihood of massive environmental, political, and violent disruptions at the hands of global warming. These may bring civilization to the brink of collapse in a few decades, if much more serious action to combat it is not taken now, quickly, and with massive changes in the way that civilization powers itself.

In consequence, a massive set of public protests, demonstrations, gatherings, and stunts is kicking off around the globe this month.  BREAKFREE has started a massive global series of actions to convince the world to abandon fossil fuels, leaving them safely in the ground, while switching to energy efficiency and renewable energy. These actions are being taken in the hopes of staving off the scourge of global warming now reaching epic proportions. The severe consequences of rampant, uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions are proceeding unabated—even accelerating—with dire consequences for the future of humanity.

On April 19 the New York Times reported that this year “has been the hottest year to date, with January, February, and March each passing marks set in 2015” and that “March was also the eleventh consecutive month to set a record high for temperatures, which agencies started tracking in the 1800s.”

WildfiresThe article added that some of the warming can be explained by this year’s El Niño, “which scientists predicted would release large amounts of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere, causing irregular weather patterns across the globe.  But the effects of the current El Niño have been exacerbated by global warming….” It was also suggested that “…many of the devastating effects of the one-two punch of global warming and El Nino may be inescapable, setting the world on a course for an extended period of rapid global warming….”

Hope is not completely lost, YET. A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that rooftop solar energy can provide almost 40 percent of U.S. electricity. Nick Cunningham wrote in a 28 March post at OilPrice.com:

 

Solar energy is rapidly becoming one of the top choices for new electricity capacity as costs continue to decline and generous public policies accelerate tremendous growth for the sector. Last year was a record year for the solar industry and the momentum is set to continue. In 2016, the EIA expects the U.S. electricity market to see 26 gigawatts of new capacity installed. Utility-scale solar is expected to capture 9.5 GW of that total, or more than one-third. If that comes to pass, it would be triple the rate of installations of utility-scale solar compared to 2015, and would also equate to more than the combined total of installations from 2013 to 2015.

 

windmillsIn case after case, we are seeing significant investments in the two most cost-effective renewable energy options: wind and solar. Around the globe there are huge solar farms and wind turbine installations generating large quantities of utility grid electric power. The reason for this? Certainly not policies implemented by conservative Republican politicians.

Instead, the beginning revolution in how we get our energy is coming from clear-headed energy investors, taking advantage of the massive drops in the price of renewable energy installations to make money and, along the way, perhaps save the world.

The cost of solar photovoltaic cells, which convert solar radiation into Solar cellelectricity directly, has dropped from $76 per peak Watt of generated electrical power in 1975 to an amazing 30¢ per peak Watt today, according to a relatively famous chart from Bloomberg News. Similarly, the price of giant wind turbines has also dropped considerably in recent years. These remarkable changes are due in large part to actions of the Chinese and other countries, which have worked hard to bring manufacturing costs of wind and solar down to what is called “grid parity,” the point at which the cost to construct a fossil fueled power plant equals the cost to construct a renewable energy plant producing the same amount of electrical energy in a year.

Solar Array

As wind and solar prices drop below the grid parity point, investors see a rosy outlook for their renewable energy dollars. Think of it this way. You are wealthy and have a lot of money in your pocket. You see demand for electricity rising with population and development, so have a choice to make.

coal power plantDo you invest in a dirty, filthy coal-fired power plant, or even in a fracked natural gas one likely to contaminate local ground water supplies and leak copious amounts of methane (30 times more powerful, molecule-for-molecule, at causing global warming that carbon dioxide)? (You know the fossil fueled power plant will take a few years to design, site, and install, so won’t begin producing revenue until that lengthy process has been completed.) Or do you invest in a clean, already-manufactured and ready-to-install, wind turbine from China? Or in a clean, already-manufactured and also ready-to-install array of photovoltaic solar cells on the rooftops of thousands of existing buildings? The choice is clear and investors like Google are showing the way.

PV InstallerCleantechnica.com reported in early 2015 that “global solar investment surged an incredible 175% in 2014. The trend proceeded apace in 2015 and is set to break records again in 2016. Venture capital funding was far and away the biggest contributor to solar’s financing surge. Developers secured more than $1.3 billion in 85 deals, more than twice the $612 million raised in 98 deals during 2013, and the highest amount since 2011,” according to cleantechnica.com.

In January of this year, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that “clean energy defies fossil fuel price crash to attract record $329 billion global investment in 2015.”  As encouraging as these reports are, they only scratch the surface of what is needed if we are to stave off the very serious effects of global warming gas emissions around the globe.

So the really big question is this: Will the massive signal provided by the campaigns of Berney Sanders and Donald Trump in the U.S. and the global protests of the BREAKFREE movement, assisted by activist organization 350.org, and coupled with the expected acts of civil disobedience profiled in the video documentary DISOBEDIENCE, have any effect on the establishment politicians of the world for the remainder of 2016? Or is the world doomed by inaction to suffer the massive costs in dollars, human suffering, plague and pestilence which uncontrolled global warming will likely produce?

Time will tell.

One Response to Establishment Politicians Be Damned. The People Have Had Enough.

  • When faced with the choice between slow but steady movement in the desired direction and the uncertainty of major changes to the US or Global economy, I prefer the status quo. BREXIT will result in at least three quarters of economic recession and the loss of several hundred thousand jobs that existed due to the freedom of movement within the EU, as Brits are no longer eligible to freely work, travel and reside within the EU and vice versa. Nor can Brits afford to with their currency having crashed to a 30+ year low. The US faces the same choice in November, status quo or big ugly economic changes to our trade relationships and defense alliances. There is no economic merit to the suggestion that we can bring manufacturing jobs back to the US to build stuff cheaper than we are currently paying. Jobs leaving was the cost of cheap demanded by the American consumer. If change to trade and defense alliances result in lower corporate earnings, not only will the value of their stock decline, but they will layoff millions of workers in an effort to cut costs, assuring another recession.

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