Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Climate science drives us apart, alternative energy brings us together

Posted By on Wed, Jan 12, 2011 at 11:40 AM

I find it slightly annoying that Charlotteans both want their city to be a green-energy hub but, at the same time, will ramble on about how climate change is a myth. Apparently, however, this isn't a Charlotte-only problem.

Check out this snippet from a post by Forbes magazine's Michael Shellenberger. It's an excellent history of how we got to where we are today. Read it!

It may be hard to remember now but it wasn’t that long ago that much of the American political establishment came to believe that the science of climate would transcend ideological and national boundaries and result in common national and global action. The idea was that climate scientists would tell us what the safe level of atmospheric emissions was, and that nations would take shared steps to reducing their emissions over the next 50 years.

In the U.S., some of the fiercest climate skeptics and critics of any expansion of government regulatory authority are outspoken in favor of government support for nuclear power. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, from nuclear-heavy Tennessee, has called for 100 new nuclear plants in 20 years. George Will, who for years has attacked some of the basic climate science, called for expanded nuclear power in the wake of the coal mining disaster in April of last year. Will wrote:

“In September 1942, the federal government purchased 59,000 acres of wilderness in eastern Tennessee and built an instant city–streets, housing, schools, shops, and the world’s most sophisticated scientific facilities. This was–is–Oak Ridge… That is what Americans can do when motivated. Today, a mini-Manhattan Project could find ways to recycle used nuclear fuel in a way that reduces its mass 97 percent and radioactive lifetime 98 percent.”

Bipartisan interest in energy independence today also motivates strong support for alternatives to fossil fuels. Neo-conservative hawks have long viewed America’s dependence on foreign oil as a threat to national security, and have favored the expansion of biofuels like ethanol to reduce our dependence. While many have lamented that ethanol is no better for the environment than oil, it’s worth remember the Congress’ intent was reduced oil dependency, not environmental protection.

The partisan divides over energy still exist, but they are far smaller than the ones that exist over climate policy. Republicans still favor nuclear and expanded oil drilling while Democrats still favor renewables and efficiency. But large majorities support increased federal funding for innovation in alternatives, from nuclear to solar to biofuels and batteries.

And so, despite the polarized climate wars, we can start to see a pathway toward some bipartisan agreement around innovation for new energy sources.

Read the entire article here.

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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