Bill McKibben writes: The scientists have done their job [describing the effects of climate change]; no sentient person, including GOP Senate candidates, can any longer believe in their heart of hearts that there’s not a problem here. The scientific method has triumphed: over a quarter of a century, researchers have reached astonishing consensus on a basic problem in chemistry and physics.
And the engineers have done just as well. The price of a solar panel has dropped more than 90% over the last 25 years, and continues to plummet. In the few places they’ve actually been deployed at scale, the results are astonishing: there were days this summer when Germany generated 75% of its power from the wind and the sun.
That, of course, is not because Germany is so richly endowed with sunlight (it’s a rare person who books a North Sea beach holiday). It’s because the Germans have produced a remarkable quantity of political will, and put it to good use.
As opposed to the rest of the world, where the fossil fuel industry has produced an enormous amount of fear in the political class, and kept things from changing. Their vast piles of money have so far weighed more in the political balance than the vast piles of data accumulated by the scientists. In fact, the IPCC can calculate the size of the gap with great exactness. To get on the right track, they estimate, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments by annually between now and 2029, and use the money instead to push the pace of renewables.
That’s a hard task, but not an impossible one. Indeed, the people’s movement symbolised by September’s mammoth climate march in New York, has begun to make an impact in dollars and cents. A new report this week shows that by delaying the Keystone pipeline in North America protesters have prevented at least $17bn in new investments in the tar sands of Canada – investments that would have produced carbon equivalent to 735 coal-fired power plants. That’s pretty good work. [Continue reading…]