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September 2020

So, What’s The Problem?

By | Food For Thought, Sustainability | No Comments

We’re making progress on clean energy, clean technology, sustainable energy and that’s great. Solar has grown leaps and bounds, more EV’s are on the road, battery technology is improving, people are more accepting of the fact that climate change is human caused, (anthropogenic). And yet, when one stops to consider the colossal, planetary response needed to truly cut all the heads off the global warming dragon, it comes up woefully short. Think about it this way; imagine the mobilization of all sides in World War 2.

Consider the millions of people engaged; billions/trillions of hours worked; new machinery designed and built (sometimes in a matter of weeks); ships built every few days; the soldiers mobilized, trained; the way whole populations worked for the war effort. It’s mind boggling when you consider the Second World War from the perspective of organization, management and cost. And the war effort was approached in multiple strategies; ground warfare, massive industrial output and the big idea, (Manhattan Project). Now take that image of all the effort put forth by all the countries fighting in WWII, multiply it by 100 and you begin to have an idea of what truly addressing climate change looks like. Our ground game is preservation of forests and a massive planting effort, industrial output is new, clean, sustainable energy systems and the big idea is some new way to scrub out billions of tons of CO2, a solar shield, or some other exotic, new tech.

Apparently world governments have not deemed climate change enough of an emergency to declare war and mobilize their populations and resources. Yes, many countries are talking steps, some big and bold, but nothing compared to an all-out war effort; which brings me to the title of this post – what’s the problem?

We stormed the beaches of Normandy, but for some reason we can’t tell GM to stop making internal combustion engines. We built the world’s most expansive and complex transportation system in history, but we can’t build a clean power grid. America essentially won the 20th Century, but we can’t even take the simplest, no brainer steps like phasing out dirty, wildly polluting 2 cycle engines. If the climate naysayer mentality had triumphed around 100+ years ago, we would never have electrified the cities, developed indoor plumbing, or developed food safety standards. “It’s too hard”, they would have said; “too expensive to insure that people don’t die of dysentery from eating their lunch.” Yes we saved the world from fascism, but these days we can’t save the world from our own mistakes.

The work that has been done thus far, though important is a drop in the bucket. Either the people of the world demand that their governments start seeing this on a war level scale, or at least as a Moon shot public project, or we will all lose.

We’ve Learned That Crises Response Matters

By | Energy, Food For Thought | No Comments

Notice anything familiar about the pandemic and its effects on America? Warnings from scientists, those warnings ignored; selfishness that intensifies the problem; politicizing of the emergency; conspiracy theories spreading and a country not willing to face a crisis. Take a look at the economic toll, human toll, the overall chaos being generated and multiply that 100 times over. This is what awaits all of us, and/or our descendants from climate change.

Hopefully with a vaccine, or herd immunity, the COVID-19 pandemic will work its way through our world in the next year to 18 months. Disasters from climate change will last hundreds, if not thousands of human lifetimes. We have no idea how long it will take to correct climate change, if it’s even possible, how long it would take to get back to a safe CO2 level and what level CO2 will eventually reach.

We’re not talking about an economic disruption that will last a few years causing a recession, or depression; we’re talking permanent economic, societal collapse, or at the least drastic societal change. So, forget about a sustainable economy, society, country when massive droughts, fires and floods make food astronomically expensive, causing food shortages. If you think the George Floyd riots were bad, imagine a scenario where food is rationed, marshal law is declared to stop the violence that starvation will bring; especially in a country loaded up on guns.

Forget about imperfect, but peaceful coexistence between nations as their economies and societies crumble. Right at this moment, reliable sources of water are disappearing that sustain India, China and other countries around the world. What happens when those run out? Will there will be war? Will countries go to war over resources, possibly massive war, nuclear war? War is a predictable consequence when societies undergo colossal difficulties.

America needs to get it’s head out of the hole in the ground it dug for itself to face the COVID pandemic and so far, we’re not exactly pulling it off. The climate crisis is a far greater, longer lasting catastrophe and there needs to be a new, unified conviction to unify the country so we can face the threat and be successful. Maybe it’s the “Green New Deal”, I don’t know. It’s become such a political hot potato and maybe it doesn’t do everything we need anyway. Below are some steps I believe need to be taken to give us a chance of saving the future.

  1. Provide more help to inventors, entrepreneurs like me with clean tech business start ups. My company developed a new kind of electric vehicle. I got a grant from the state of Minnesota, which helped me immensely, but when I attempted going through the federal government granting process, (SBIR) it was too restrictive and did not help me, even though I have 2 patents on my technology and dozens of early customers. Several other countries help their green tech inventors more.
  2. Approach the climate crises like it’s a war. We have to have a ground strategy and a big idea strategy just like the US did in WWII. The ground game are things we can do now like planting billions of trees, converting to renewables, (solar, wind). The big idea is a Manhattan Project for scrubbing CO2 out of the atmosphere at a very high rate. A totally new kind of technology.
  3. Re-start the draft, using the young people as workers to do a lot of the labor. Soldiers in the climate crises war.
  4. How to pay for all of it:
    1. Seize the assets of the big oil companies and use the money to pay for a lot of this. Obviously, this will be an unpopular position, but this will happen anyway eventually when things get bad enough and the people are angry enough that the fossil fuel industry covered up the truth.
    2. Fully instate a carbon tax, carbon offsets program. Put a price on the waste that fossil fuel companies make, that being CO2. Begin a progressive fossil fuel tax that increases a bit each year.
  5. Set a date for complete phase-out of internal combustion engine cars. Several countries have already announced this.
  6. Finally – and this is most important – frame the whole thing like this: “America can do this. America can do anything when we set our minds to it. It HAS to be America to solve this because we are the best at this.”