The last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, humans didn’t exist. It's clear the dominant theories about how we landed on this knife edge are entirely insufficient.

We were failing to act it's said because politicians are trapped in short-term electoral cycles or because climate change seems too far off, or because stopping it is too expensive, or because the clean technologies aren’t here yet. There was some truth in these explanations, but they're much less true now.

This crisis is banging down our doors. The price of solar panels has plummeted and now rivals the price of fossil fuels. Clean tech and renewables create far more jobs than coal, oil and gas.

As for costs, trillions have been marshaled for subsidies for fossil fuels, in the same years the coffers have been virtually empty for climate transition (see "On Fire" by Naomi Klein). And if you still say climate change is a natural cycle of Earth’s atmosphere and nothing to do with human activity, you have your head in the sand.

Join us in supporting the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Carbon Dividend Act by letting your congressman know you want action now.

Mardi Mitchell



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(20) comments

Carlos Ponce

Plant more trees.

Chris Tucker

In recent years the United States has reduced its emissions more than any other country in the world while achieving record oil and natural gas production. Other countries such as India and China continue increase their emissions with no end in sight. Fossil fuel is not the enemy but rather how many countries manage their emission policies or their "lack of management." So please remember that when you buy the low cost items from overseas countries you are a contributor to those countries and their actions. Pay a little more and buy American made goods which keeps our workforce employed and enables our nation to continue the reductions of emissions. Maybe it sounds simplistic but you have to start somewhere!

Carlos Ponce

Cleanest energy is natural gas. So why are environmentalists against it?

Gary Scoggin

From a climate standpoint, natural gas is cleaner than coal so long at the fugitive emissions from the gas are well controlled, which is usually the case. But that's why you see a lot of attention being paid these days to methane emissions. On every other environmental front, gas is much, much better than coal.

So why do environmentalists "hate" gas? They see the concept of natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to renewables getting in the way of faster wind and solar implementation. They are wrong on this, by the way.

Bailey Jones

The reason we aren't doing more to save the planet is that the issue has become a partisan one. In the 80s and 90s Big Oil spent big money to create a counter-narrative and elect politicians who would spin it. Ironically, many of those same corporations have now embraced the need for urgent action, and are positioning themselves to reap the enormous profits to be realized in the switch from fossil fuels to clean energy. Unfortunately, the counter-narrative now has a life of its own and has become an article of faith among many conservatives, an albatross around our necks,

The rest of the industrialized world, unencumbered by this counter-narrative, is marching ahead to a clean energy future. We see their windmills arriving at our ports. We see their solar cells going up on our houses.

A few American entrepreneurs are heeding the call. Elon Musk is now the richest man in the world - don't tell me there's no money in clean energy.

By embracing the technology of fracking, the US has become largely energy independent. If we don't embrace the technology of clean energy for ourselves, we risk once again becoming a country dependent on others for our energy.

President Biden has a plan to spend $billions to build the new clean energy infrastructure - the same sort of infrastructure that we built a century ago to exploit oil and gas to great economic success. My hope is that those $billions will go to American entrepreneurs and American jobs, not Europe and China. The only constant in the world is change - embrace it, or be left behind.

Gary Scoggin

A few thoughts...

There is still a wide range of thought within the oil and gas industry on climate change. Many companies (mainly smaller US companies) still see it as hogwash and think of it as a passing fad. Other companies see it as an existential threat but are paralyzed on how to deal with it. And, lastly, more and more companies are seeing it as an industry transformation that must be planned for. Some companies are leaders in this transformation, others are followers.

Despite all the ambition to go fully renewable or zero-carbon or whatever as quickly as possible, the fact is that fossil fuels will still be part of the energy mix for decades to come. Any reasonable energy projection (IEA, for example) illustrates this. What you will see is a lowering of the carbon intensity of the fossil fuel being burned. Coal>Heavy Oil> Crude from Fracking > Conventional Crude > Natural Gas from Fracking > Conventional Natural Gas. Renewables will grow immensely over the coming few decades but it's still a relatively small fraction and even with massive growth wind and solar have a long way to go to be dominant -- especially on a global scale.

Another problem with the zero-carbon ambition is infrastructure. For example, California wants to go to all-electric vehicles sales by 2035. The problem is that California is about a third short on the electric generating capacity to charge all of these and their distribution infrastructure is in bad shape. Add to that the fact that it's almost impossible to permit and build new generation of any type (including renewables) in the state. (Insert California jokes here.)

My personal high level view is that man-made climate change is real and, as a global society, we have to deal with it. The US, China, EU, Russia and India account for about 2/3 of the earth's GHG emissions. Let's start there and worry about the smaller countries later. Also, lets resign ourselves to the fact that we will not hit the 1.5C warming target set out in the Paris accord. Probably not the prior 2C target either. That means, as we work to reduce climate change, we also need to be learning to live with it.

Bailey Jones

Technology, like politics, is the art of the possible. It's all too easy to look at the daunting goal of "zero-carbon" and dismiss the whole concept as too hard to do. But a lot of it isn't. We don't have the electrical infrastructure to immediately switch every car from gas to electric, but we can certainly support more electric vehicles than we have. California being 1/3 short on power is a problem, but considering that Texas has added 1/6th to its capacity with wind, it's not an unsolvable problem. Now that whole house batteries are coming on line, roof top solar and microgrids are a real possibility. There was a time when you couldn't drive a car from the east coast to the west on concrete because we didn't have the roads - it took Eisenhower being bold about making highways a priority. Now we take interstate highways for granted - and they've enabled whole new industries and ways of living. Build the infrastructure and it will come.

One other point - "zero-carbon" doesn't mean no fossil fuels. It means zero net carbon. Part of the plan involves farming practices that capture CO2 in the atmosphere and lock it in the soil, new forests, and engineering chemical and mechanical means of sequestering carbon to offset the inevitable continued use of fossil fuels.

The market will continue to rule the day - but as we've seen with wind, renewables are competitive. Electric cars are gaining favor because they're objectively better automobiles - faster, quieter, and more reliable than gas cars. That's really the key to the new energy economy - it's not going to happen because Biden wants it, it's going to happen because it's better. Solar panels and a whole house battery is in every way superior to being reliant on a grid - or Reliant, IMHO.

Complaints about China and India to me are just missed opportunities. There was a time when these countries came to us for the latest tech - that's where we need to be again.

Gary Scoggin

Bailey -- you raise some good points and I don't want to paint too pessimistic a scenario. But, unfortunately at this point, the political problems dominate the technical ones. If President Biden can develop the consensus that Eisenhower did around the Interstate HIghway system or that his predecessors did around rural electrification, we can make much more progress much more quickly. The difference is that most everyone agreed that those were good things and worthy goals, Today we are more polarized over what should be an accepted scientific fact. And the polarization is largely aligned with party. The good news is that American attitudes are evolving pretty quickly with the newer generations being much more accepting.

I will go back, as always, to the necessity of having a market-based approach to climate change through the use of an economy-wide price on carbon. But I want to push back a little on the notion that we can green ourselves into prosperity. There are some good projections out there that suggest that aggressive movement on climate change will in and of itself depress GDP somewhat over the next decade or two. Some people will be hurt, Elon Musk notwithstanding. However, the economic impact of action pales in comparison to the economic impact of not acting. What we can reasonably hope for is that other factors in the economy - evolving technology, better economic efficiency, better education and healthcare, for example -- offset the impacts of addressing climate change.

You are also correct about a net zero economy. Sustainable agriculture. carbon capture and a move to a circular economy are key aspects of this, With respect to carbon capture and storage, there are three big technical issues - one is chemical engineering (efficiently capturing CO2 off of combustion sources), geology (finding suitable substrata to put the stuff) and transportation between the two (pipeline safety). All are technical problems right now best solved with money.

India and China are two different situations. Both are awash in coal and short on natural gas. China, being strategically disciplined as they are, are making significant moves to renewables; perhaps faster than any other region in the world. India is lagging far behind.

Bailey Jones


Gary Miller

Climate change is real and natural, not man caused. It can'y be stopped but can be enjoyed by learning how to cope with the changes. Something Humans have done during all the previous climate changes. The back and forth of warmer followed cooler every 600 years or so give us plenty of time to learn how to cope. Countries that panic and over adjust will end up following the countries which just cope with what is important in the now. The US has been the best at adjusting to change over the past few years. Reducing emissions more than anyone else. Seeking political profit has some trying to panic US leaders into over reacting. Slow and steady will be the better choice over the 300 or 400 years until climate naturally reverses again. Everything we do to cope with the warmer change today will be the wrong policy when the climate change becomes cooler.

Gary Scoggin

The natural variation in climate over the eons is pretty well documented through the geological record, antarctic ice cores, etc. The difference now is that the change is climate is occuring much more rapidly than in the past. This rapid change, coupled with a documented, steadily increasing level of CO2, and a coherent theory linking the two point to the role of industrialization in the climate change. If you dig into the dara it's really compelling.

It's not a situation where we can wait a few hundred years for things to come back around.

Bailey Jones

Yes, Gary, CO2 levels like today's (>400ppm) have not existed on the planet for at least 10,000,000 years. There were no humans around to "cope" with it. The range during the entire human era has been about 175ppm - 275ppm, crossing the 300ppm threshold only around 1900, and the 400ppm threshold in 2016. We're at about 410ppm now. The trend does not look promising.

Bailey Jones

Today's news - GM plans to be 100% electric by 2035 -

A little googling finds this about the other car companies -

Toyota - 50% of vehicles by 2025

VW- 40% by 2030

Ford - 40 EVs by 2022

Volvo - 50% by 2025

BMW - 25 EVs by 2023

Nissan - 8 EVs in 2022

Daimler - 10 EVs by 2022

At least that was the plan - before GM changed the game today.

Carlos Ponce

Bailey in 2030 - still a lot of gas.

Gary Scoggin

There are big ambitions for the world to be Carbon Neutral by 2050. This pace of electrification helps in that glide slope. Time will tell if this will be achieved. Liquid hydrocarbons will not go away as a transport fuel for a long, long time but their role will evolve.

Carlos Ponce

With major polluters (India, China) currently exempt there will be no carbon neutrality by 2050.

Gary Scoggin

China and India are both parties to the Paris Accord and both have pledged reductions. As there are no enforcement mechanisms in the accord, it will be up to each country to meet its commitments. China is very aggressively moving towards renewables and cutting their CO2 emissions. India, much less so. Both countries have lots of coal and not much natural gas which puts them in a bit of a bind.

Carlos Ponce

"pledged reductions" ... Not really. They are considered "developing Country Parties" in the text.

" The efforts of all Parties will represent a progression over time, while recognizing the need to support developing country Parties for the effective implementation of this Agreement. "

"recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, "

" Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances. "

" Support shall be provided to developing country Parties for the implementation of this Article, in accordance with Articles 9, 10 and 11, recognizing that enhanced support for developing country Parties will allow for higher ambition in their actions."

[In other words, the United States PAYS India and China.]

There's a lot more in there that lowers expectations from India and China,. Read the document.

Bailey Jones

Yeah, Gary, as I've said, it's the art of the possible. A lot can be done easily - cars, for instance. And household solar power. I just bought a battery-powered lawnmower and it's the best mower I've ever owned. My LED Edison lights are the best light bulbs I've ever owned, and they save a lot of electricity. Electric 747s? Electric cargo ships? Maybe not, at least no time soon.

There's the low hanging fruit - like cars, solar-powered homes, and more efficient products, and there's the really hard stuff - like jetliners. And in between, there are opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurship. Just as canals, railroads, electrification, highways, and the Internet provided the infrastructure for tremendous advances in technology and household wealth, the new clean fuel infrastructure will unleash the same. The only question is "will it happen here?"

Gary Scoggin

Bailey -- Sure, it's all possible. It's the pace of change that is the question. Given the different goals that have been set on the local, state and corporate levels, the pace of change is picking up. Texas is the fifth largest wind generator in the world; in part due to the fact that we saw fit to build a power infrastructure to incorporate this remotely generated power into the Texas grid.

That said, extracted hydrocarbons will be part of the mix for a long, long time. That's not as bad of news as it may sound. With biofuels, carbon capture and other technologies, we can still burn hydrocarbons at some rate and eventually get ahead of the warming curve. The question is how much warming happens in the mean time?

An interesting thing, the move to sustainability has accelerated the pace of corporate innovation in almost all areas. It's this increased pace of innovation that you and I both hope will accelerate the move to a more stable climate.

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