Identifying the right solution requires identifying the right problem

U.S. Emissions are way down, to levels of the middle 1990s, mostly thanks to fracking, but also the rapid rise of renewables. Market economies are good at change. The problem we face now is in counties like China, India and other developing countries. Even if we went to zero emissions in the U.S., they would more than pick up the slack. By 2020, China alone may produce more CO2 emission than the whole world did in 1990.

The problem is increasingly overseas. This is an unpleasant realization for Americans. We don't like to get blamed for everything, but at least if you are to blame it implies you have to capacity to change the outcomes.

I distrust global planning in general, given its track record. We do indeed need to direct our efforts, but we should do it in the American way of distributed decision making, with government playing a lead role in research and coordination, NGOs exploring their areas of specialization to direct inquiry to priority areas and the American people and businesses making decisions in the areas they know best. This is not satisfying to most people because it doesn't seem like a story. There are no heroes or villains. But it works. We criticized ourselves and were criticized by others because we never developed a coherent national energy policy. Instead we had fits and starts with lots of mistakes. But it worked. Today, the problem of energy scarcity that we faced in the 1970s is solved for all practical purposes.

Or consider the rapid decline of tobacco smoking. It is still legal to smoke, although restrictions continue to multiply. There was never a comprehensive policy; rather it was accomplished by a combination of decentralized and mostly uncoordinated efforts. Who would have believed in 1974 that by 2014 most people would not smoke and that we would enjoy abundant energy produced in the North America?

You cannot plan for innovation because innovation is by its nature new and unpredictable. The best you can do is to create conditions where innovation is more likely to happen. This implies an iterative process, with one innovation building on the other with constant churning and change. It also means that we recognize that yesterday's solution is today's problem and this is not a bad thing.

One more thing about irreversible change - most change in irreversible and we would not want to reverse it. It was cooler 200 years ago. We would not wish to "go back" to that climate. Our posterity 200 years from now will not wish to go back to the climate of 1970. It doesn't really matter if it is warmer or cooler; it is the change and the speed of change that is a challenge. The report is correct that the change is already coming and nothing can be done to stop it. We need to think harder about how to properly adapt. Our ancestors faced worse changes and the earth has been there before. We can do it too.

Posted by Christine & John at November 2, 2014 1:46 PM
Comments
Comment #384938

One major reason for making the leap to globalism was to push the ‘smoke stack’ industries offshore. The folks were assured that there would be plenty of ‘computer related’ jobs, hi-tech jobs, bean pushing jobs, etc to replace low tech mfctring jobs.

Also, about the same time frame, mid 80’s the folks were promised that if some several millions were citizenized gov’t would shut down further illegal immigration.

Recall in the early 90’s we got a slap in the face when the gov’t secretly tried to push thru the NAU where workers within the US, Canada and Mexico could cross borders unimpeded.

With the NAU was to come a ‘trans American highway’, like 16 lanes wide, rail, and huge pipelines to products from China, water, gas and crude from Canada thru Texas.

We are still getting all that NAU offered, just on a much slower time line. What Corpocracy wants Corpocracy gets, eventually.

Over went the smoke stack industries and the computer/hi tech jobs, et al. Some token level of hi tech jobs are returning to US shores.

If the US could cut down/out co2 emissions from gas/oil use we wouldn’t be considered a major player in the greenhouse/climate change issue.

The world is really counting on fusion and some progress is being there. Shouldn’t be too hard to manage the situation until fusion comes on line, some say as early as 2050, and so on - - -

Posted by: roy ellis at November 3, 2014 8:30 PM
Comment #384939

Some cigarette mfctrs now require their employees to not smoke in the office.

Posted by: roy ellis at November 3, 2014 8:33 PM
Comment #384940

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Posted by: roy ellis at November 3, 2014 8:42 PM
Comment #384942

US per capita emissions are still way higher than the BRIC nations. We still need to clear the log out of our own eyes before we complain about the specks in others’ eyes.

Posted by: Warren Porter at November 3, 2014 9:08 PM
Comment #384943

Warren

Look to the future, not the past. Beyond that, our emissions are related to our GDP and we are getting better. The bottom line remains that the future problems lie among the developing countries.

Posted by: C&J at November 3, 2014 9:22 PM
Comment #384947

BRIC emissions are growing as those nations yearn to match the standard of living of the developed world. It is clear that our current per capita emission rate is not sustainable if everyone in the BRICs nations adopts it. The key challenge for the next few decades will be bringing the per capita emission rate down without causing people too much discomfort. This is a challenge for both developed and BRIC nations. Still, it is good news that emissions per unit of GDP are down, but only because it puts us on the road towards lowering per capita emissions.

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