A Few Good Questions about Climate and Energy

| 11/26/2008 1:36:00 PM


Question Marks 

Now that Obama has been elected, the question everyone's asking is — what’s next? There’s a lot of curiosity about what he’ll do as president to address the related issues of clean energy and climate change.

The good news is that Obama has already pledged serious action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the use of renewable energy. But there are a lot of questions still to be answered. Just as a starting point, here are three articles I ran across this week that are asking interesting questions about climate, energy and politics.

• First, I saw this article in Time which asks: Is Obama’s Energy Plan Enough? This is eye-opening. The question is — even though Obama is prepared to take big steps on energy and climate, is his agenda ambitious enough to address the scale of the problems?

• Here’s a related question from a recent article on Gristmill, What’s the Magic Number? Ouch, this one is scary. It concerns the ultimate safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Many leading scientists argue that its 350 parts per million (ppm). Unfortunately, we’re already at 380 ppm. According to the author, Joseph Romm, it’s going to take a World War II level of effort to stabilize the climate. (More on that here. No surprise: it would involve a lot of renewable energy.) The big question here is — is the general public willing to make that kind of an effort?

• And there’s a good description of that problem on the Dot Earth blog, which wonders Is the World in Obama’s ‘Shock and Trance’ Mode? Apparently, in the recent 60 Minutes interview Obama suggested that with falling energy prices, the world was moving from “shock” mode to “trance,” or complacency. He said that while energy remains high on his agenda, already there’s not as much political support for the kind of changes that are necessary. (Here’s more from the interview.) The author of this article wonders if it’s going to take a Katrina-level climate event to wake us up from our energy trance. Eek.

But back to the good news. Not only is Obama pledging to act on climate change, he’s also leaving the door open to better solutions to our biggest problems. Obama’s new Web site asks Americans to submit their best ideas on different policy issues. So if you have something to say about climate or energy, check out the energy and environment page and let your voice be heard.

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .

George Works
12/1/2008 7:23:09 AM

Some studies suggest that any CO2 released from fossil carbon changes the climate. But our civilization runs on fossil fuel and it will take many decades to change that -- probably until we run out. It's not only electricity and vehicle fuel, but industrial carbon use releases CO2 as well. Steel is made by replacing the iron in ore with carbon, and releasing the CO2. Cement is made in great furnances heated by natural gas that drive off the CO2 in limestone. Nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas. There are many good reasons to ween ourselves from fossil fuels, including that we are running out of them. Slowing the process of global warming is another good reason. But it will be centuries before the climate returns to what it was when civilization evolved and it will get worse before it gets better. There really is no way to avoid this.

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