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Chapter Six Excerpt: The Technology Trap and the American Way of Life

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"Chapter Six Excerpt: The Technology Trap and the American Way of Life"

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[Note: This excerpt is being posted out of sequence because Chapter Six of Hell and High Water lays bare the rhetorical strategy that the President will no doubt use in his State of the Union address.]

There is no doubt that the time to act is now. It is now that timely action can avert disaster. It is now that with foresight and will such action can be taken without disturbing the essence of our way of life, by adjusting behaviour, but not altering it entirely.
–Tony Blair, 2005

It’s important not to get distracted by chasing short-term reductions in greenhouse emissions. The real payoff is in long- term technological breakthroughs.
– John H. Marburger III, president’s science adviser, 2006

The mantra of the Delayers is “technology” and “technology breakthroughs.” Their technological fix to the greenhouse gas problem is, unsurprisingly, not imminent. It is “long-term.” But as we have seen earlier, failing to act in the near term–now–will bring about such drastic conditions that soon our only choice will be to react with extremely onerous government policies.

In 2005, British prime minister Tony Blair described the crucial two- prong strategy we must adopt: “We need to invest on a large scale in existing technologies and to stimulate innovation into new low- carbon technologies for deployment in the longer term.” Future technology will be able to help preserve our way of life in the long term if and only if we have already moved “on a large scale” to technologies that already exist. Over the next few decades, we must rapidly deploy available technologies that stop global carbon dioxide emissions from rising. Then, in the second half of this century, we must sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by deploying all the new technologies we have developed.

The time to act is now…..

Conservative message makers, like Frank Luntz, realized that it could be politically dangerous to oppose any action on global warming, even if their efforts to obfuscate the climate science were successful. Luntz lays out a clever solution to this conundrum in his 2002 “Straight Talk” memo on climate change messaging [a must-read for all progressives]:

Technology and innovation are the key in arguments on both sides. Global warming alarmists use American superiority in technology and innovation quite effectively in responding to accusations that international agreements such as the Kyoto accord could cost the United States billions. Rather than condemning corporate America the way most environmentalists have done in the past, they attack us for lacking faith in our collective ability to meet any economic challenges presented by environmental changes we make. This should be our argument. We need to emphasize how voluntary innovation and experimentation are preferable to bureaucratic or international intervention and regulation.

This is the technology trap, where clean energy technology is used to delay action, rather than to foster action, on climate change.

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7 Responses to Chapter Six Excerpt: The Technology Trap and the American Way of Life

  1. Kevin says:

    The Marburger quote is exactly right. We will not solve the climate crisis by cutting back on energy usage. Living standards are too closely tied to energy consumption, and no serious society is going to risk these standards by voluntary CO2 cutbacks. Face the facts: this is exactly why Kyoto-style cutbacks are failing throughout Europe.

    It is very telling that climate extremists (like this blog) *never* give estimates of the economic cost of CO2 reductions assuming only today’s technology. They know, too, that there is no appetite whatsoever for massive CO2 reductions from today’s technology base.

    As I’ve asked before, is the owner of this blog willing to shut off his Web server, his office/home PC, and his Internet connection for the sake of reducing CO2 emissions?

    Clearly the answer is “no.”

  2. Jim Roland says:

    Please, please realise that biofuel targets are very dangerous, and high biofuel targets like you are supporting are very, very dangerous. See http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk.

    I, and the other founders of this campaign, are all climate change campaigners concerned that an enforced switch to a certain amount of biofuel use is instituting a whole new set of environmental problems while only postponing another. Such production requires a huge amount of land so displacing other human impact on to pristine habitats most dangerously tropical rainforests; sugar cane and palm oil have highest energy yields, but are more directly displacing rainforests, and palm oil is increasingly causing more CO2 emissions per unit than that unit can save, through its expanding cultivation on the extensive Indonesian peatlands.

    Please go on campaigning for climate progress in the USA but not this way. See also the Earth Policy Institute and Forests.org blogs.

  3. ReadyForChange says:

    Hydrogen is still the way to go IMHO, along with a combination of other renewables such as wind, hyrdo, and thermal (which has shown GREAT promise lately).

    Hydrogen constitutes some 75% of the universe (the other 25% being almost all Helium) and is also the fuel that powers starts like our sun. If we are looking for a long term renewable energy source our best bet is looking to what nature itself uses. Hydrogen reactions in our atmosphere produce water vapor – which is another greenhouse gas but which also is absorbed into Earth’s natural cycle much more easily and readily than CO2.

    The main problem with Hydrogen is in its production – which requires energy from the outset. Right now our main options for producing this initial energy are coal fired power plants… obviously not a good solution. Which means our power plants need to be converted to nuclear, or thermal – OR we could start investing in deep sea OTECs which could be used for a myriad of other purposes to further mankind’s ambitions for the future.

  4. ReadyForChange says:

    #1

    “It is very telling that climate extremists (like this blog) *never* give estimates of the economic cost of CO2 reductions assuming only today’s technology. They know, too, that there is no appetite whatsoever for massive CO2 reductions from today’s technology base.”

    That’s not true… I’ve seen blog posts here talking about exactly that!

    “As I’ve asked before, is the owner of this blog willing to shut off his Web server, his office/home PC, and his Internet connection for the sake of reducing CO2 emissions?

    Clearly the answer is “no.” ‘

    You’re clearly bent on causing arguments and distracting from the real issue. Having these web servers up and running are a small price to pay in order to help educate the masses and bring about LARGE SCALE change which is necessary to avert major climate changes. Also, the author of this blog has also told you that he in part uses a solar array to power his computers. That’s a start at least and more than you’re doing I’m sure. Moreover I’m sure he has no control over his ISP’s business decisions.

    Try being part of the solution instead of spending your time attacking people who are actually trying to do something about global warming.

  5. Kevin says:

    ReadyForChange wrote:
    > Having these web servers up and running are a small
    > price to pay in order to help educate the masses and
    > bring about LARGE SCALE change which is necessary
    > to avert major climate changes.

    This is EXACTLY the argument that EVERYONE uses to justify their own carbon expenditures: it’s only a *small* amount of carbon, and the benefits are *so* great. This same argument applies to transportation expenditures, heating expenditures, food expenditures, and every other sector. Obviously *every* energy expenditure looks worthwhile to someone, or they would not be making it (because energy expenditures are not free). Every expenditure benefits someone. So does this Web page. But if we are truly going to reduce GHG emissions, we are going to have to go after *each and everything* that emits. Everything. We are going to have to sacrifice. Why should everyone *else* have to sacrifice and not this blog?

    > Also, the author of this blog has also told you that he in
    > part uses a solar array to power his computers.

    And he has steadfastly refused to answer the question of whether his Web server runs on green energy, and whether his ISP does.

    > more than you’re doing I’m sure.

    In fact you’re quite wrong. I pay ~10% extra for green power. I run no Web sites. My ISP is not green, to be sure. But then, I’ve chosen simplicity over energy efficiency — and, to the point, I DON’T GO AROUND TELLING EVERYONE ELSE HOW TO EXPEND ENERGY, as the author of this blog does.

    > Moreover I’m sure he has no control over his ISP’s business decisions.

    Bull. He has choice over who he *chooses* for his ISP. Why can’t he pick an ISP that is committed to green power??

  6. john says:

    Note to Kevin and his fellow troglodytes:

    The question is NOT how much it will cost us to cut GHGs — it is how much it will cost if we don’t.

    The best answer to that question is the Stern’s Report, and if you actually want to deal in reality, please consult it before posting further.

    I’m sure you are a lover of free markets, and a believer in the wisdom of the markets, so consult them if you want a real assessment of the costs and benefits of climate change. For example, try getting insurance on a beach house anywhere on the East coast — it will cost you about 17 times what it did a decade ago, if you can get it. Why? Because the cold hard scientific facts of gobal warming have become self evident to the inusrance companies — who, unlike knee jerk reactionary conservatives, must live in the real world, not the desperate fantasy people like you concoct to justify no government intervention.

    So, let’s review, Kevin: 1) Innaction costs orders of magnitude more than action to cut GHGs; and 2) the market is already valuing that proposition; 3) so it’s not just a bunch of liberal enviros.

    Now, do the world a favor and turn your server and computer off, until you’re willing to deal with the fact-based world.

  7. Kari says:

    Kevin –

    Check out a study that America’s Energy Future commissioned as part of the 25×25 campaign (25% of American’s energy from renewables by 2025) to RAND and the University of Tennessee. After running 1,500 models, the executive summary finds, “Under a range of plausible futures, therefore, the model results indicate that expanded use of renewables could be achieved at acceptable costs.” And later, “in the best-case scenarios for renewable energy, our renewables case could reduce energy expenditures by about 3 percent, or $40 billion.”

    And then there’s the Stern Review Report, that a 1% GDP investment now saves 5-20% later. And there’s good reason to start giving energy research and development MORE money, rather than less, which has been the trend since the late 1970s.