According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Our Earth is warming. Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.” The EPA noted, “Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.”
Given the magnitude of the climate change problem, the U.S. government is needed as a major problem solver due to the breadth and depth of its resources (i.e., national laboratories, regulatory framework creation, R&D funding, commercialization scale up, and establishing international cooperation). I offer the following thoughts on why the United States and corporations are currently unable to take effective action on climate change:
- Many Republicans believe that the Government is basically the problem and needs to be downsized. This irrational thinking was first started by President Reagan and has persisted to the current day. A downsized government will be incapable of dealing with climate change.
- Fossil fuel corporations contribute vast sums of money to political campaigns in order to gain access, regulatory favors and tax breaks from those that are elected. These corporations have no real interest in promoting renewable energies because those technologies would siphon off money from fossil fuel revenue streams.
- Corporations are incapable of addressing climate change because that problem is essentially long term and requires thinking beyond the current fiscal quarter.
- The U.S. Government is less able to focus on serious problem solving due to the two-year presidential campaign period where almost nothing of substance is accomplished. Recent presidential campaigns are a case in point (e.g., 2011-2012, 2007-2008).
- The U.S. Government should cease spending unspeakable sums on foolish foreign ventures that are doomed to failure (e.g., Afghanistan at the rate of 2$B per week) and divert that money to climate change solutions and renewable energies.
- Our current lifestyle is predicated on ever continuing economic growth, which implies expending increasing amounts of energy, mostly that derived from fossil fuels. That is not sustainable because fossil fuels are not inexhaustible and using them exacerbates climate change.
Recommendations: A national discussion is needed to envision a plan for the post fossil fuel era (i.e., declining oil/gas/coal production after production of these resources has reached their peak levels). The U.S. Department of Energy funded a study on Peak Oil that resulted in the Hirsch Report in 2005. A report on the military implications of Peak Oil was funded by the German Government and published in 2010. These reports could serve as material for public policy discussions. A public relations campaign should be established to penetrate the cocoon of national ignorance that prevails in this country on the subject of energy and the fact that fossil fuels will not last forever.Tags: . Hirsch Report, American Petroleum Institute, Climate Change, Earth's Average Temperature, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Fossil Fuel, GDP, German Report Peak Oil, Gross Domestic Product, Peak Oil