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Relentless Innovation
Technology Can Play the Hero in Climate Change Battle

Teams from 15 different countries submitted plans to the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network this week, and instead of the usual hand-wringing and fear-mongering that typically accompanies these kinds of international talks on environmental issues, the plans they produced actually sketched out ways in which humanity might harness technology to combat and adapt to climate change. The NY Times reports:

The decarbonization paths rely on aggressive assumptions about our ability to deploy new technologies on a commercial scale economically. For instance, carbon capture and storage is supposed to be available starting in about 10 years. Second-generation biofuels are assumed to come into play by 2020. Hydrogen fuel cells and power storage technology are deployed starting around 2030…But these technologies all exist today and seem reasonably scalable. The teams did not rely on more speculative technologies, like cold fusion, to make their numbers.

This approach is a marked improvement over that championed by the environmental movement in the past, namely, that environmental concerns ought to trump economic ones because of some moral debt we owe to our planet. That’s a thorny debate, and it hasn’t—and won’t—produce results.

The green movement sees technology as part of the problem, a contributing factor for the current state in which we find ourselves: staring at the frightening prospect of climate change. But technology still has a very important role to play, and the sooner environmentalists get on board with that, the sooner they can start championing solutions that have a chance of being put into practice.

Nuclear energy is a zero-carbon baseload power source, and until we make significant breakthroughs in energy storage, it’s irreplaceable in a “green” energy mix. Wind and solar energy have come far, but they’re still too expensive to compete with fossil fuels. Investing in their development, along with research into carbon capture and storage technologies, will pay much bigger dividends than will propping up current-gen turbines and panels with government subsidies.

Technological progress is a product of humanity’s remarkable innovative talents, and we’ll need every bit of that drive if we’re to tackle one of the most complex problems we’ve ever confronted.

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  • ShadrachSmith

    You want to solve the energy problems? First you need a Republican president, and congress. Then we produce the heck out of American oil, gas and coal, while hoping that China will be successful with LTFR (nuclear) reactors and we can move to those after they are developed.

    Technology isn’t the problem, resources aren’t the problem, the anti-capitalist, luddite, green, political agendas and the air-heads who vote for them are the problem.

  • Andrew Allison

    Given TF’s frequent, and entirely justified, Jeremiads concerning climate tourism, er conferences, I’m astonished that it takes the plans submitted to the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network seriously. Ignoring for the moment the conceit that we can actually influence climate, let’s consider the simple fact that the data show that the supposed relationship between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature is nonsense. In other words, the need for decarbonization is, at best, questionable. That’s just as well because, as the evidence from Germany, China and India makes clear, it isn’t going to happen until we run out of fossil fuel because, as TF has pointed out, all the (non-nuclear) alternatives to fossil fuel combustion are ridiculously cost-ineffective. Meanwhile, thanks to increased global temperature and all the CO2 China is sending our way thanks to the prevailing winds, White Spruce in the NE is growing (and thereby sequestering carbon) at three times historic rates. Duh!
    Although it’s been (on average) static for the past 17 years, global temperature is higher than in recent centuries. Even if the 97% of real scientists who think that global temperature may be headed down rather than up are right, in the short term the oceans are going to continue adjusting to the current surface temperature, ice is probably going to melt and sea levels to rise. Wouldn’t it make sense to take steps to mitigate this instead of pretending, in the absence of any evidence that we can change the climate, that we can stop it?

    • LarryD

      he Earth is still recovering from the Little Ice Age. During the Medieval Optimum England was warm enough to have a thriving wine industry. We’ve been warmer than this, and we’ve been fine. And the sea levels has been rising since the end of the last ice age. Outside of the decades of the end of the ice age, sea level changes are slow enough that adaptation isn’t hard.

      • jfreed27

        The LIA was only local, not global and it is warmer now globally than the LIA

    • jfreed27

      Yes, it is wise to take precautions with the only planet known to support life, says the American Academy of Meteorologists.

      • rheddles

        That’s why the weatherman always carries an umbrella.

        • jfreed27


  • jfreed27

    Solar/wind is actually cheaper than fossil fuels which seem cheap but are far from it. Coal production, for example, hits us with a hidden tax of $300-$500 billion per year in over 70 negative impacts (Harvard Medical School study, Epstein lead author). And nuclear power fails on the costs. We subsidize nukes about $7.7. billion/year. Also, the cost of DOD “protecting” Middle East oil is close to $500 billion per year.

    • Duperray

      Your statements are not fact based since more than 72 new high power nuclear reactors are presently under construction. This shows that large investors, backed with 60 years history, are sure it is competitive. How could an isolated person to be the only right on this planet? Nuclear expansion is not (at present time in the West) a tool to promote politician careers. While renewables ARE a political tool: its economical non-effectiveness is clear for specialists, not yet for population.
      But population is pragmatic overall about two visible parameters: Bill increase and grid failures. Germany is already reaching the “bill inflation” parameter and within 2 years grid failures show the absolute non-sense that present erratic renewables are. These are “tectonic” moves that none could stop.

      • jfreed27

        Your paranoia is showing, as you cast emotional appeals at the issue. Political agenda, indeed. Are you ignoring the billions thrown against the science of global warming by the Kochs and friends?

        Fine, I say remove all subsidies to nukes, renewables, fossil fuels, include the social costs of negative impacts, and let the best fuel win. I have no worries about the outcome

        Nukes have received many billions in subsides and after 50 years, seem to still require them. And the taxpayer is on the hook for disaster relief should it be required.


        “Without these generous subsidies, the nuclear industry would have faced a very different market reality,” said Doug Koplow, the author of the report and principal at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting firm, Earth Track. “Many of the 104 reactors currently operating would never have been built, and the utilities that built reactors would have been forced to charge ratepayers even higher rates.””

  • lukelea

    What do hydrogen fuel cells have to do with climate change?

    • Andrew Allison

      In the AGW belief-system, fuel cells change the climate by reducing fossil fuel consumption (LOL). As with the electric car myth, the cost of creation, distribution and delivery of the “fuel” is not considered.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “The green movement sees technology as part of the problem, a contributing factor for the current state in which we find ourselves: staring at the frightening prospect of climate change.”

    This is wrong, the green movement sees mankind as the problem, and they use the greatest hoax in history (Global Warming) as the leverage to damage us all. They see mankind as a cancer on their Goddess Gaea, when Mother Nature is justly proud of mankind as her Greatest Achievement.

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