19 July 2022

Small opinionated notes on climate and energy effects right now

We had an unusually cool spring and are now having a glorious, warm but not hot (for the most part) summer here in the American coastal northwest. These kinds of summers used to be the norm, but in recent years we've often had more hot, dry weather, enough to cause wildfire storms and raise fears of climate change destroying our natural forest cover. The southwest, including all of California, has been hit harder by these kinds of changes. But this year it is Europe that seems to be suffering the anomalous heat wave like the one we endured last year. Just as we had the highest temperatures ever recorded in June of last year, London, which has kept temperature records for over 350 years, has recorded its highest temperatures ever this week

Meanwhile right wingers in our country mostly continue to deny this is human caused, and, in a related lapse of reason, they tend to blame President Biden for high gas prices. (Which are reflected in world energy prices and inflation that have very little to do with actions of the American president, and to the extent they do they resulted mostly from the collusion with the Saudis that was a hallmark of the Trump administration more than Biden's. They also tend to blame Biden for another cause of global energy and other price surges, namely the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine-- in a remarkable feat of cognitive dysfunction). But they give Biden no credit, of course, for the fact that gas prices in most of the US have actually dropped about 75¢ in the last six weeks. 

We muddle along, preoccupied with the short term, and are failing miserably to do what is necessary to bring about net zero carbon emissions. To the extent the human species is acting to bring this about, it seems to be driven mostly by technology and good ol' fashioned market economics. Technologies to produce renewable energy have emerged, not fully but to an extent. Electric vehicles have become practical and are in high demand. Even without massive government programs, solar energy has become affordable and practical, and people seem to realize more and more that conversion away from natural gas and other fossil fuels is the path forward. There are even some signs that much improved nuclear technology, which has a well deserved reputation for environmental problems and completely infeasible economics, can overcome those issues and be a successful part of the solution; and even research on fusion energy and advanced batteries is showing real promise. The solutions to climate change are technological, but the problems are mostly political. We must be willing to invest, and to pull together politically on a global scale. If we can do that, the problems can pretty clearly be overcome. Big "if." 

Hope springs eternal. We humans do lots and lots of dumb things, but we do have a track record of pulling it together somehow and moving forward before things collapse entirely. Let's hope the people alive today can do that, because pretty obviously we only have about that amount of time left to accomplish what needs to be done. 

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