Why is it so easy to spend money on destruction rather than on construction?
“Houston,” Charles F. Kutscher, chairman of the Solar 2006 conference, concluded in a twist on the line from Apollo 13, “we have a solution [i.e., solar energy].”
Oh yeah? In the very informative article "Budgets Falling in Race to Fight Global Warming" in the NY Times today, it seems that for all the rhetoric, it's a matter of less is happening than we think. The above quote was from a presentation on technologies to limit global warming; the audience cheered. It wasn't a Bronx one, but it could've been.
The cold, hard facts are that in these United States of America, federal funding for energy research is dropping. The energy research budget is $3 billion this year, down 60% from $7.7 billion in '79 (that's the year of the previous "oil crisis," Carter's "moral equivalent of war," remember?)
On the other hand, in this era of the immoral pretense of war, military spending (probably not including the latest Iraqi involvement and boondoggles) is now at $440+ billion/year, which works out to be $50,000+ per hour. And I thought my hourly rate was high. Note that we spend more on the military than, oh, the next twenty countries combined? [image:Wikipedia]
Private investment cannot hope to pick up the slack in energy research because private investors, even the enlightened ones, would want a return on investment within far shorter times than are projected for investment in new technologies, say 4-5 years instead of 10-20. And of course, there's the unquantifiable nature of "leadership," a quality sorely lacking in our current administration except when it comes to harassing people of the Muslim persuasion, even if they happen to be Americans.
The British, God bless them, have issued a report (thankfully, only 27 pages, another example of British understatement?) calling for international cooperation on global warming. British environmental groups are widely touting the report.
“The conclusion of the Review is essentially optimistic. There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we act now and act internationally. Governments, businesses and individuals all need to work together to respond to the challenge. Strong, deliberate policy choices by governments are essential to motivate change.
But the task is urgent. Delaying action, even by a decade or two, will take us into dangerous territory. We must not let this window of opportunity close.”
If nothing else, that report shows the tremendous market opportunities available for low-carbon technologies (carbon is the enemy of choice driving global warming, remember.) Even to a old socialist like me, it seems that this is a win-win situation. With just a little steering in the right direction (no more than the support we give to Big Tobacco,) we could be incubating an enormous amount of research and development, using market forces, in the direction of sustainability.
For what it's worth, from this article, "Britain to push for global climate deal by 2008."
"The [British] Treasury is also sending Sir Nicholas on a whirlwind tour of China, India, the US and Australia to set out British thinking and press home the central thesis of his review - that it will cost the world far more later if it does not spend money now to avert climate change."
because India and China, non-signatories to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, are going to be very significant contributors to greenhouse gases as their economies change in the near future. So at least Britain is engaging them in the hopes of bringing them into the Kyoto fold...what are we doing? Nada?