Visions of a Post-Carbon World
by Peter G. Cohen
Surely one of the reasons that it is so difficult to achieve meaningful environmental legislation is that we don’t have a vision of a sustainable future. That’s understandable. For the last 250 years we’ve used coal and oil for energy rather than human and animal labor with great success. We’ve become dependent on carbon fuels. Coal and oil companies have spent millions to make sure that it stays that way.
Coal has become the main source of electricity, which is so wonderfully clean and convenient that people can’t wait to get the latest electrical gadgets. Oil developed with the gasoline engine in cars, ships and planes. Now it is also essential for plastics and hundreds of chemicals. Gas was at first a lighting fuel and now can be used to heat homes and dinners, to power cars, electrical generators and factories.
These fossil fuels have been an enormous benefactor of mankind. We resist learning that by burning them we are destroying the climate that makes life possible. Furthermore, the big enemy, atmospheric CO2, is invisible. We can see smoke and soot, but not carbon dioxide or methane. They are invisible assailants. We must trust our scientists to read the signs of degrading earth and changing weather. Everything that science has predicted about climate change is coming true, only at a faster rate than anticipated. (more…)