Over at Mashable they just posted an interesting article on social media’s perception of the climate change issue. According to the article, “Internet has revelation that climate change action won’t kill the economy after all,” during the last year or so there has been a tremendously positive shift that “reflects the increasing realization in the business and policy-making communities that the transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and other emerging technologies constitutes an economic opportunity rather than an economic obstacle.”
Even though they present wonderful graphs and data to prove their case, Mashable rightly points out the biases of the researchers. They also note that studies about social media are often fraught with problems. But if you’re paying attention, the piece really only lends credence to what we’re all aware of day-to-day now that the Paris summit is over. The business world has been getting warm gooey feelings about clean and renewable energy for quite some time.
Economic thinking is somehow portrayed as rational and scientific, but it’s always also been affected by emotion, data choices, mis-perception, prejudice, limited assumptions, and general bias (I’m talking about economists, business people and citizens alike here). Look back to the utter fear that the book, radio, and even movie world had of TV. And now, all that less-than-scientific and rational processing is leaning in a more positive direction — even with fossil fuel costs lower than they’ve been in years.
We’ve known for decades that energy efficiency by its very nature is good for the economy (who has read Amory Lovins’s Soft Paths in the media world since 1980? The dude laid it all out. Efficiency is kind of a major concept in the business world, right?). Numerous studies over the years have shown as well that centralized, capital-intensive power plants create far fewer jobs per unit of power than decentralized and small-scale power production.
In addition, in the past decade several high level groups of economists have produced major reports showing the economic advantages of a full scale assault on climate change technology. Why the media let Exxon and their ilk drive the discussion for so long is beyond me (not really…).
Shoot, if you’re watching TV these days, you know that even the Axis of Energy Evil wants to be part of the solution. Watch the “Energy Lives Here” video. Or check out this company statement here on climate technology research, “Driving Innovation – developing new technologies to reduce GHG emissions.”
Fossil fuel companies in general are coming to Jesus for a reason. They’ve basically been lying to us for decades and now they’ve been caught at it. Read this Technology Review post from November, “How Fossil Fuel Executives Fooled Themselves on Climate Change.”
Let me just say, this is only the beginning, but it’s super nice that folks are finally finding their religion, so to speak. We need everyone on the same team here. This has never been about politics except that some fools (and greedy assholes) have tried to make it so.
We can do this!
Our next President and, hopefully, our next Congress, will have the historical privilege of either helping or hindering a global war on climate change. The trick to making things work is not technology alone, nor is it going to be economic gimmicks like a fossil fuel tax. Those things are important — super important if we intend to be successful. No, the trick in it all is that everyone (every single fucking person on the planet) understands the climate change game is about all of us pulling together. When one person fails, we all fail. It’s not going to work any other way. Perhaps a better way to say it is that we’re all in this together and we need to help each other. Either way you look at it, there’s no quick fix and no easy solution that doesn’t require struggle and even sacrifice.
Without doubt, we need to pay attention to where we are on the thermometer right now, here in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. Global mean temperature has gone up by almost 1-degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. We only have half a degree of play left. But we really can do this! We have the technology now. We have the know-how and the moxie. And now we have the will. Read the latest TomDispatch by Michael Klare, “Go Green Young Woman, Young Man.” We just need to be smart and show some backbone.
I keep coming back to thoughts about the last major technology system upgrade we all went through — which created one of the biggest economic flowerings in world history. I’m talking about the personal computer revolution. There were problems, of course. There always are with major technology change. But moving from computers to the internet to what now is an entire virtual universe driving pretty much everything (except procreation and maybe walks in the woods) changed life on this planet for almost every human being forever — mostly for the good even if you don’t feel that way after three hours on Facebook (we won’t get into your porn habits).
People in African villages, for instance, can buy things on the Internet with digital phones now and watch CNN…or FOX. Developing world finances are manageable down to the level of individual farmers or craftspeople in rural villages. Etc Etc Etc At the same time, where are receptionists, secretaries, typists, and operators these days? Who needs a mailman? Are libraries obsolete? Why do you even pay your cable bill these days? (We do because Comcast won’t let us watch our beloved Philadelphia Phillies any other way).
There’s no question the next technology and business revolution is in clean and smart energy. That same African villager I talked about above can buy a solar electricity panel on the Internet and have power to light her home or to charge tools and even appliances. More energy efficiency may translate into lower electric demand in homes that allows solar PV to power entire household energy needs. Maybe fossil fuels need to cost more in the short run (take away subsidies and require environmental impact fees to cover for their contribution to global warming). If your neighbor who drives an SUV to work has problems with that, maybe you should loan him your Prius or Leaf or Ford Fusion Energi to help him save money until he figures out that he’s creating his own problems.
We’re finally moving into that new world we all knew was coming. It really does feel like the early 1980s when PCs and electronic bulletin boards were just coming to the surface. It sounds like the business world is remembering that time too, and knows that the writing is on the wall. And now it looks like Mashable is saying the media — and social media — are beginning to feel the buzz, too. Well, thank goodness. Head ’em up and move ’em out.