Joe Romm is a scientist and author. He got his Ph.D in physics from MIT, and was an assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, running the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. He runs the Climate Progress blog and is the author of Hell and High Water: Global Warming - the Solution and the Politics - and What We Should Do. I'm reading it right now, and like The Long Emergency, it's not a light beach read for the faint of heart. It is scary.
The basic premise is that global warming is happening, the scientific consensus is that it is caused by human-induced carbon emissions, and if we don't do something about it, the next 50 generations of Americans will suffer horribly because of our inaction. He also says that we have the know how to curb the damage we've caused, and those generations will condemn us for not taking action:
The tragedy, then, as historians of the future will most certainly recount, is that we ruined their world not because we lacked the knowledge or the technology to save it but simply because we chose not to make the effort.
Romm asserts we have the technology to make huge reductions in emissions right now, but lack of political will is stopping us (See Senator James Inhofe, President Bush, and the other monkeys in Washington). He offers these 10 long term actions as potential solutions:
Imagine if the next president, in concert with the U.S. Congress and all the major nations of the world, developed and developing, embarked on an aggressive five-decade-long effort to deploy the best existing and emerging energy technology. Imagine that from 2010 through 2060 the world achieves the following astonishing changes:
- We replicate, nationally and globally, California's performance-based efficiency programs and codes for homes and commercial buildings. From 1976 to 2005, electricity consumption per capita stayed flat in California, while it grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation.
- We greatly increase the efficiency of industry and power generation - and more than double the use of cogeneration (combined heat and power). The energy now lost as waste heat from U.S. power generation exceeds the energy used by Japan for all purposes.
- We build 1 million large wind turbines (fifty times the current capacity) or the equivalent in other renewables, such as solar power.
- We capture the carbon dioxide associated with 800 proposed large coal plants (four fifths of all coal plants in the year 2000) and permanently store them underground. [...]
- We build 700 large nuclear power plants (double the current capacity) while maintaining the use of all existing nuclear power plants.
- As the number of cars and light trucks on the road more than triples to 2 billion, we increase their average fuel economy to 60 miles per gallon. [...]
- We give these 2 billion cars advanced hybrid vehicle technology capable of running on electricity for short distances before they revert to running on biofuels. [...]
- We take one-twelfth of the world's cropland and use it to grow high-yield energy crops for biofuels. [...]
- We build another half-million large wind turbines dedicated to providing the electricity for these advanced hybrids. [...]
- We stop all tropical deforestation, while doubling the rate of new tree planting.
Note that wherever I've included a "[...]" I've either shortened the text of the proposed solution to reduce length, or, in the case of 7,8 and 9, I've broken one bullet point into 3 (because that's how I got to 10 from Romm's 8!).
Anyway, this guy is brilliant, slices through all the conservative denier noise, and you should run out and get this book. If you care about the future of your kids, your friend's kids, or the kids you might one day have.
A couple final thoughts: I used to think nuclear couldn't be part of the solution. With the combination of peak oil and global warming, it's the only way we can keep the lights on in the future. In the US, we'll just have to start dumping the waste in Yucca mountain. Nobody will be living in Nevada in 25 years anyway.
I'm also not so sure about the car solutions. We should also be focusing more on reducing the number of cars on the road, in addition to herculean improvements in fuel efficiency. Here in the U.S., we don't need 230 million + cars, plain and simple. First step to reducing the cars on the road? Raise the legal driving age to 18 around the country.
Unless we start making drastic changes soon, future generations of Americans will be condemning baby boomers, generation x, y, and z for our inaction. And rightfully so. I'm already condemning the baby boomers - the most narcissistic, self absorbed, consumption oriented generation in American history. Their generational motto should be "our parents sacrificed for us, why shouldn't our children?"