Climate Realists, Energy Optimists

  • February 03,2015, 12:13 PM

    by Rev. Mitch Hescox

    The year 2014 was the hottest on record, according to our nation's experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And what will 2015 be known for? It could just well be the year we left denial and despair behind and found hope.

    While the debate over the need for climate action has been over for decades in scientific circles, in the public arena deniers on one extreme and doomsayers on the other have hogged the stage. One denies the problem, like the don't-worry false prophets of old, while the other intones we're too late; judgment is at hand; 2014 says so.

    Using sleight-of-hand statistical mumbo-jumbo, deniers have tried to pull one over on the American people about the recent pace of global warming. Don't be fooled. Global temperatures have continued their century's long march upward, with 2014 being the latest exclamation point and 2015 projected to do the same. And with the heat comes extreme weather like the California drought, flooding and mudslides in Washington that killed 43, and the fact that Anchorage, Alaska was above freezing all of 2014.

    So does that mean the doomsayers are right? The end is nigh, we're already toast, as 2014 portends?

    Not at all! That's not the moment we are in.

    Rather, our time, our climate-moment, is like that of Moses in his final words to the children of Israel: "See, I have set before you today life and prosper-ity, death and adversity ... Choose life so that you and your descendants may live ..." (Dt. 30:15, 19b).

    It's still possible for us to choose life and prosperity, so that we and our children and grandchildren can truly live. But for that to occur it's time for both the doomsayers and deniers to exit stage left and right, respectively, and for the hope-providers to step forward with real, transformational hope. We still have time to overcome climate change in a way that creates a healthier and more prosperous world. But we must choose to do so, we must choose to create a clean energy revolution that overcomes climate change; it won't happen on its own.

    Some good news: The world has already begun the process of turning things around. The transition to clean energy is now self-sustaining and inevitable, according to Bloomberg energy market analysts. Just as 2014's record-breaking temperature is part of a larger trend of the planet heating up, so too is the growth seen in clean energy in 2014 part of a larger trend of the world transitioning to clean energy.

    Bloomberg analysts report that "clean energy investment in 2014 beat expectations," with global investment up 16 percent to $310 billion. Solar was up 25 percent, wind 11 percent, and energy efficiency up 10 percent. In a promising trend, there was significant growth in small distributed capacity — most of it coming from folks putting solar on their rooftops and taking charge of generating their own energy, thereby lessening their dependence on a regulated monopoly.

    Besides global market investments, strategic policy investments will help ensure that the U.S. is in an excellent position to lead the needed transformational change.

    These include the administration's climate action plan, and state efforts like those put in place by former Gov. Schwarzenegger in California and Gov. Rick Perry's wind policies in Texas.

    While we are poised for greatness, these positive but incremental steps will not be enough to overcome climate change. The climate movement must join forces with clean energy proponents to ensure that the transition becomes the revolution, one whose success will be defined by having the world avoid dangerous interference with the climate system.

    For this to occur requires transformational leaps not yet in evidence, but ones whose creation history demonstrates is highly likely — if we choose to make the proper investments, if we choose life and prosperity. And here's where there's more good news: an essential ingredient — funding for basic R&D — has support from across the political spectrum, bringing liberals and conservatives together.

    To top it off, federal clean-tech R&D funding has had an incredible rate of return: every dollar spent has generated $24 in economic benefits. To get things going, we should triple federal clean-tech R&D, as called for by Bill Gates, GE's CEO Jeff Immelt, and others.

    Bringing everybody together to choose life and prosperity — what's not to love?

    So 2014 being the hottest year on record is not an excuse for despair, but rather a call to action. Just as in Moses' day, we have a choice between life and prosperity from a Clean Energy Revolution, or death and adversity from out-of-control climate impacts.

    It's up to us; let's choose life, so that our descendants may live.

    The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is president and CEO of Evangelical Environmental Network. He lives in New Freedom.

    This post originally appeared in the York Daily Record.

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