Improving Our Energy Future Will Require Positive Arguments

The most frustrating problem with the climate change debate could very well be that loudmouth extremists on both sides are dominating it, and they’re each trying to “win.” On the left side, we have people running around screaming “The sky is falling!” and declaring that our very existence depends on the immediate cessation of all fossil fuel use, and that failure to do so will result in the total annihilation of the human race, and most other species of animals and birds.

Apocalyptic proclamations always cause me to chuckle, no matter who they come from. And while they make me smile, such gloom-and-doom proclamations really don’t encourage voters to show up and support our side.

Of course, on the other side we have a moronic group who claim there’s absolutely no problem with spewing all sorts of crap into the air. Some even go so far as to claim that we have a God-given right to burn as much fossil fuel as we’d like. They claim no negative effects on the air and water, and that, since we still have blizzards and cold weather, the climate isn’t changing that much. Not that seeing the planet get warmer would be a bad thing, anyway. Longer summers and shorter winters are good, right?

Both extreme sides are counterproductive, to say the least. And the result of all of this “debate” is, we keep burning more and more fossil fuels. It’s also why oil companies get tax breaks, while green energy companies have to hold bake sales and sell stuff on eBay to raise the money they need.

This is why it’s so important for more sane people to chime in and take over this debate? Sane people always seem to be missing from the public debate. Why is that?

It’s not possible to claim the planet isn’t warming when you look at statistics going back a few hundred years. We keep warming. Most of the last 20 years have been among the warmest on record. Yes, I know, the “record” doesn’t go back all that far, but the climate is changing.

What we don’t know is why, what’s causing it, or whether this is a permanent change or part of a cycle. To claim definitively that the current warming trend is solely because of human activity is not just impossible to support, and it’s also completely irrelevant. We have to deal with things as they are and with what we know. The planet is warming, and may not stop warming during the next century or so, and we have to deal with the problems that with it.

We have to address climate change rationally, not by screaming about the end of the world. People will always embrace change when they;re advised of the benefits of working to change the energy culture. We have at least thirty years of catching up to do when it comes to transitioning away from fossil fuels, and it has to happen relatively quickly. Of course, “quickly” in this case means about 30-40 years, not five. And make no mistake; the impetus for the transition won’t be based on some tenuous prospect like the end of the world. I can guarantee that. If we really want to sell the policies and technologies that will eventually free us of fossil fuel dependence, we need to tout their benefits in a way that is not dependent on fossil fuels not being the main cause for climate change. Think about it; what happens if we suddenly have ten years of cooling temperatures? If people let their guard down, we could end up sending fossil fuel use right back up again.

Let’s be real; there are many rational reasons to wean ourselves from fossil fuels that have nothing to do with the end of the world. For instance, burning oil and most diesel fuels is dirty as hell. Wouldn’t it be nice to power-wash buildings once every 20 years, instead of once every two, because soot no longer builds up?

There are so many cleaner alternatives available now, there’s no reason to continue over-using this 19th Century technology. We know how to use the sun and the wind to generate electricity, and we know they’re cleaner, and have little or no negative environmental effects. Why is that not the main reason for the transition? Why does it have to be to stop the human race from dying off? The world is a better place because of motor vehicles and electricity; they’re not evil. We just need to figure out how to produce energy without all the noise and filth. Seriously, without even considering the doom we supposedly face, what’s the downside to transitioning to clean energy sources? Is cleaner air and water that hard to sell? Is cheaper energy really a difficult concept to get people to go along with? Is the prospect of putting solar panels on the roof and cutting their electric bill by 50 percent really impossible to get people excited about? Is the impending flooding of all land masses and the destruction of all humankind the only argument some can think of to use, to encourage support for the transition to clean energy?

We need to make a change. The era of the huge centralized power plant must necessarily be over. We need to set up solar and wind farms, and set it up so that tens of thousands of people set up their own smaller power plants or even produce their own power and sell the excess back to the grid. But the more we scream at people, declaring the end of the world, the less time we have to actually sell the changes that absolutely must be made. 

We must also invest in greater conservation. Replacing incandescent with compact fluorescent light bulbs is just theOf course, we can’t convince people of the need to conserve if we spend a lot of our time trying to scare people into believing we face the end of the world. Wouldn’t it be great to live better than we do now, while using a quarter of the energy, and a quarter of the energy bill? Is there really a contingent that would complain about their car getting 100 miles out of every $4 gallon of gasoline? Does anyone imagine that people would object to not having a brown cloud over their city, or that they would complain about being able to go to a beach without being covered in black gunk? For that matter, who would object to generating the power we need without fear of starting a war?

I don’t know why the climate is changing, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. The reasons why we have to stop using fossil fuels to the extent we do now are so many, there’s absolutely no reason we have to be Chicken Little over the issue to get people excited about changing our ways. Renewable energy sources are cheaper, cleaner, more natural, abundant, and they will make everything around us cleaner and fresher. Not only that, but producing the technology needed to build out the electric grid and produce clean energy will create a bounty of jobs, and economic benefit.

There is no downside to switching away from fossil fuels, and there are plenty of positives to such a move. So, why are we always talking about gloom and doom? Negativity doesn’t sell o anyone outside of the extreme right and extreme left. Positivity always sells to most people. And since our electoral system is democratic, “most people” is a good thing. .