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Articles by: Richard Heinberg

Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us

Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us

Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom. Overshoot is a systemic issue. Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution, and loss of natural habitat and[Read More…]

Disengage From The Spectacle

Disengage From The Spectacle

Behold today’s edition of Empire’s End—the biggest, best-ever 24/7 reality TV show! It’s been decades in preparation, with a budget in the trillions, a cast of billions! Its hero-villain is far more colorful and pathetic than Tony Soprano or Walter White. One day he and his team of oddball supporting characters appear to be winning bigly; the next, they’re crashing[Read More…]

Sunrise on the Cannonball River and the Oceti Sakowin camp, Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Photo by Thane Maxwell.

A Hard-Nosed Optimism

In last week’s essay I used the phrase “hard-nosed optimism” to describe the attitude needed now as “an alternative to the lies of divisive bullies who take advantage of the elites’ failures in order to promote their own patently greedy interests.” This is the optimism Antonio Gramsci probably had in mind when he coined the memorable phrase, “Pessimism of the[Read More…]

Photo by ChrisA1995

Inauguration Day: A Good Day For A Walk In The Woods

Not since the Civil War has an American presidential Inauguration Day been so fraught with fear and dread (on February 23, 1861, Abraham Lincoln traveled to his inauguration under military guard, arriving in Washington, D.C., in disguise). The incoming president is the most unpopular of any to assume office since modern polling began. In a single news cycle this past[Read More…]

'Trump’s ascendancy probably represents not a victory for localism or even populism,' writes Heinber, 'but merely a co-optation of legitimate popular frustrations by a corporatist huckster who intends to lead his merry band of cronies and sycophants in looting what’s left of America’s natural and cultural resources.' (Photo credit: EtiAmmos/Shutterstock.com)

Localism In The Age Of Trump

2016 will be remembered as the year Donald Trump—a wealthy, narcissistic political novice with a strong authoritarian bent—was elected president of the United States after campaigning against economic globalization. The events are fresh enough in many people’s minds that feelings are still raw and the implications are both unclear and, for many, terrifying. For those who have spent years, in[Read More…]

Exploring The Gap Between Business-As-Usual And Utter Doom

Exploring The Gap Between Business-As-Usual And Utter Doom

Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, but everybody does it. As long as we’ve had language—for tens of thousands of years, at last estimate—we’ve been able to formulate the question, “What will tomorrow bring?” The answers have ranged from idyllic to hellish, though the reality has been, more often than not, “a lot like today.” Since the Industrial Revolution,[Read More…]

“You Can’t Handle The Truth!”

“You Can’t Handle The Truth!”

Movie buffs will recognize this title as the most memorable line from “A Few Good Men” (1992), spoken by the character Colonel Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson (“You can’t handle the truth!” is #29 in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 top movie quotes). I hereby propose it as the subtext of the recently concluded Republican and Democratic national[Read More…]

What We As A People Can Do

What We As A People Can Do

  Co-Written by Richard Heinberg, David Fridley Ed. note: This is Chapter 10 of Richard Heinberg’s and David Fridley’s new book, Our Renewable Future, now available from Island Press. Post Carbon Institute’s companion website,ourrenewablefuture.org has also just been launched and contains additional content not in the book. Sound national and international climate policies are crucial: without them, it will be impossible to[Read More…]

Lessons Along The Path To 100 Percent Clean Energy

Lessons Along The Path To 100 Percent Clean Energy

In early May of this year, Portugal ran on renewable electricity alone for four consecutive days. And later that same month, on May 15, Germany filled almost all its electricity needs with solar, wind, and hydro power. This is good news: it tells us we’re making progress toward a zero-carbon energy system. But it also helps us see the challenges to a full renewable[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Alternative Energy
Energy And Justice

Energy And Justice

The equity and justice questions won’t go away. From the perspective of global elites, something must be done to level the playing field and take everyone’s interests into account (whether through an overarching global framework or through piecemeal national and regional efforts), or those who feel excluded will disrupt efforts toward an orderly energy transition. From the perspective of those with far lower levels of power and wealth, there is no reason to support efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption if those efforts only preserve or exacerbate economic inequality.

by Comments are Disabled Counter Solutions
Renewable Electricity: Falling Costs, Variability, And Scaling Challenges

Renewable Electricity: Falling Costs, Variability, And Scaling Challenges

Costs to utility companies from the introduction of distributed solar PV are somewhat balanced by the fact that added solar capacity helps reduce the strain on electric grids on summer days when demand soars and utilities must buy additional power at high rates. Nevertheless, as more residential and business customers install their own PV systems, revenues to the utility industry are starting to decline.[72] Industry-sponsored studies warn that the trend could eventually lead to a radical transformation of energy markets, on a scale similar to the restructuring of the telecommunications industry following the advent of the Internet and cell phones.

The Boiling Pot

The Boiling Pot

On the surface, things appear normal. The status quo of life in America circa 2016 isn’t to everyone’s liking, but at least the system is still working after a fashion. The price of oil is going up a bit: that means the cost of driving is also creeping higher, but steeper prices provide a little welcome relief for an oil[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Climate Change
Renewable Energy

Our Renewable Future

Ed. note: This is the introduction to Richard Heinberg’s and David Fridley’s new book, Our Renewable Future, now available from Island Press. Post Carbon Institute’s companion website, ourrenewablefuture.org has also just been launched.The book is available to order and also to read on the website as a complete set of online chapters. By Richard Heinberg & David Fridley The next[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Alternative Energy, Counter Solutions
Tiptoeing Through The Renewable Energy Minefield

Tiptoeing Through The Renewable Energy Minefield

I spent the last year working with co-author David Fridley and Post Carbon Institute staff on a just-published book, Our Renewable Future. The process was a pleasure: everyone involved (including the twenty or so experts we interviewed or consulted) was delightful to work with, and I personally learned an enormous amount along the way. But we also encountered a prickly[Read More…]

by Comments are Disabled Alternative Energy