Smarter Not Harder
A Smarter Approach to the Climate Change Problem

We’re just seven months away from a historic climate conference and already top officials are working to lower expectations, downplaying the 2 degrees Celsius objective and suggesting that delegates won’t work to craft hard targets. But the summit may have the wrong goals in the first place, as Robert Atkinson writes for the Hill:

We need breakthrough technological progress if we are to get the world to zero carbon. When technological innovation makes clean energy cheaper than dirty energy, the world will adopt it en masse. […]

If the Paris negotiations are going to be more than symbolic, negotiators need to focus on how such an agreement can embrace a global clean energy innovation strategy. In particular, high-income and emerging economies should commit to investing at least 0.15 percent of national gross domestic product in clean energy research, development and demonstration. Doing so would provide a $75 billion boost to clean energy innovation, an Apollo-like investment on a global scale that could quickly advance technology development in areas such as energy storage, solar, wind and nuclear.

Go ahead and read the whole thing. It’s a compelling case for a radically different approach to one of the largest problems of our time, and it’s the kind of argument we hope makes it across the desks of delegates preparing for the summit in Paris this December.

Global greens seem determined to wrangle some kind of binding international treaty on climate change, but the diffuse responsibilities for and vulnerabilities to global warming, along with the leeching effect many of the preferred green policies seem to have on economies, make it very difficult to see how the world’s leaders would sign on to such a deal. If Paris does produce a document, it will be little more than an eco-twist on the Kellogg-Briand Pact, lacking the teeth to realistically enforce any of its aims.

But just because the environmental movement is pursuing a fruitless solution doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there, or that it isn’t worth addressing. Humanity’s capacity to innovate is one of our greatest resources, and as the pace of technological change accelerates our future looks bright, despite the looming threat of climate change. A solar panel efficiency breakthrough or a cost-effective and scalable energy storage system would give us the tools necessary to meet the challenges greens like to paint as insurmountable.

We’d be much better served pouring our time, energy, and dollars into the research and development of next-generation technologies than into the doomed quest for a global climate treaty.

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