Renewables And Carbon Pricing Are New Climate Denial
By Bill Henderson
05 August, 2015
Climate change is real, human caused, a danger today as ocean acidification, extreme weather and change of climate patterns, and a profound danger for tomorrow with rising sea levels, abrupt climate change and potential positive feedbacks that could lead to runaway warming.
Climate change is an accidental side-effect of burning fossil fuels that has been allowed to become civilization and maybe even humanity threatening. Lack of mitigation action now sees the suite of climate change dangers building to threaten peace, our economy, our children's future and all we know, care about and love.
We benefit greatly today from the production and use of fossil fuels but the consequences - the disruption, death and loss - predicted by the growing climate science must now convince all but the most myopic deniers that we must quickly stop burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels must stay in the ground - until they can be used safely without increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
No new fossil fuel infrastructure - unless it leads to reduced emissions. A firm, agreed upon schedule to wind down production and use of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, dirtiest first. This is the mitigation path that we must urgently embrace globally because we have put off effective mitigation until we are now deep into dangerous climate change.
But even though there is international agreement to reduce emissions to stay under a 2C guardrail to protect against the worst potential dangers - keeping fossil fuels in the ground (until they can be used safely) and thereby reducing emissions effectively is still not the climate mitigation bottom line.
Instead continuing denial keeps us from real, effective mitigation action. Instead the only mitigation allowed is a slow transition to renewable sources of energy utilizing carbon pricing and decarbonization strategies that do not threaten the present fossil fuel centered economy.
Regulation to limit new fossil fuel infrastructure and wind down present production and use is not even acceptable in debate about effective climate change mitigation strategies. Only a slow transition with continuing unrestricted fossil fuel production and use and which does not threaten needed growth in the already fragile global economy is allowed, and even then this transition can only proceed as fast as renewables can replace fossil fuels in market competitiveness in quantities needed to power the present economy projected into the future.
But the carbon budget science is clear: there is no hope of staying under 2C without urgent and deep emission reduction - emission reduction of a scale not possible in the next two crucial decades within this slow transition conceptualization of climate mitigation.
Renewables and carbon pricing are essential to effective mitigation but advocating for renewables and carbon pricing without regulation to keep fossil fuels in the ground is denial ( implicatory denial instead of the now untenable flat-earth, out right denial of climate change scientific cause and effect).
Advocating for renewables and carbon pricing in this slow transition just wastes very precious time as we pretend that regulated reduction of fossil fuels isn't needed. It is a recipe for continuing emissions leading to a 3-4C rise in temperature in this century and this surely means the death of all we love and care about.
Renewables and carbon pricing without effective regulation to keep fossil fuels in the ground might allow the beginning of this slow transition without endangering investment and jobs and pensions and development, and if it was 1990 this might be the correct mitigation path to advocate for, but with what we know, what the extensive climate change science tells us today, this is denial and we must quickly get past this denial to effective action.
It is negligent and irresponsible to advocate for climate mitigation that does not, can not, reduce emissions of a scale necessary to stay under 2C. Advocating for building renewable capacity and for carbon pricing as if these strategies will lead to more effective action in the future ignores the urgency of deep emission reduction now and the powerful path dependence of the fossil fuel economy. Decarbonization and carbon pricing (as presently conceived) are not effective mitigation strategies; they are a new stage of denial by people who think they take climate change seriously.
We will eventually get to regulating the end of fossil fuel production and use but the longer we wait the more danger there will be from increasing climate change and, in all probably, the needed transition to a new post-carbon socio-economy will be harder and the damage to existing wealth, infrastructure and security more severe.
Do we need a plan for a slow transition to renewables or a plan to get off fossil fuels? Building renewable capacity is not emission reduction if there is no regulated reduction of fossil fuels. Rules for power generation that do not include regulated reduction of fossil fuels just displace fossil fuel use to other jurisdictions.
If, for example, Hansen et el are right and there is even a reasonable probability of a ten foot sea level rise this century which would devastate most of the world's great cities and surely collapse the global economy leaving failed states and war - shouldn't we be far more serious in choosing effective mitigation strategies at this late date instead of continuing to try and shoehorn climate mitigation into business as usual?
Shouldn't there be a much more robust process for planning climate mitigation then just advocacy of half measures in the main stream media where the debate is restricted to what is not economically heretical and is not inclusive, evidence-based and transparent?
Shouldn't those of us who recognize the climate dangers and who know the carbon budget science requiring urgent deep emission reduction stand up, speak up and at least force an open debate about the effectiveness of the slow transition versus regulating the real reduction of emissions by really keeping fossil fuels in the ground?
Bill Henderson is a frequent contributor to Countercurrents on climate change. He can be reached at bill (at) pacificfringe.net
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