Whatever happens at Paris talks, clean energy gathering steam
The News & Observer, December 1, 2015. Image credit: JH Images.co.uk
As the Paris climate talks begin, the die is already cast: The world is going to move toward cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy. The question for U.S. policymakers is whether the world’s biggest economy gets left behind.
Obama has set a target of reducing U.S. carbon emissions, over the next decade, to a level at least 26 percent below what they were in 2005. Republicans in Congress – and on the presidential campaign trail – vow to do everything they can to sabotage this effort, claiming it will be bad for the economy. But if the naysayers succeed, they will only guarantee that the other great industrial powers, China and Europe, dominate the new energy landscape.
Of the nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris, 183 have already set targets for limiting heat-trapping carbon emissions. Whether or not the summit produces a comprehensive agreement, the clean-energy train has already left the station.
The basic facts are not in dispute among scientists: The large-scale burning of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution has sharply increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 40 percent, and this increase, because of the greenhouse effect, has warmed the planet. Nor are the facts in dispute among policymakers in most capitals other than Washington.