Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recent Notes for DOD from the Climate Change Battle Ground (Updated)

To all that follows add this, just in from the IEA via the WSJ: "World Need for Oil Expected to Ease"


Simplicity is a wonderful thing, sometimes the most wonderful thing. When you have it, you understand more quickly, for instance, how to operate a new gadget, or what course of action is the right one in a moral/ethical/legal debate. When all you have is complexity, your next move, should you make one at all, is a difficult one. Such is the case with information coming from many different directions re: US energy strategy and energy security vis a vis the climate change question.

With the DOD increasingly signalling its interest in limiting CO2 emissions, to include obligations to comply with executive orders, I believe it's time to look anew at the still unsettled science both on the human contribution to climate changes we see around us as well as on humans' potential ability to modify the climate now in way that will be helpful (what might be helpful, too, is undecided).

In the meantime, winners are often determined by who employs the best rhetoric. Here are a handful of pieces I've read in the past week or two that do a decent job of poking on this issue, from several perspectives.

The first article comes from the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE's) 4th quarter 2009 publication. Called "We Can Live With a Fossil Fuel Future: Oil, Gas, Coal & Shale Oil", author Gerald Westbrook attempts to tackle everything from climate change politics to the economic, scientific and engineering forces driving renewables adoption and ultimately makes a case to support his title. As a renewable energy enthusiast, I can't say I feel good about what he's saying. But I do want to understand his case, even though I disagree with parts of it.

Then there's the Wall Street Journal, which gives Cambridge Energy Research Associates' (CERA's) Daniel Yergin a platform to announce "America's Natural Gas Revolution." Seems like there may be a heck of a lot more nat gas available to us in the not-too-distant future from very local sources. Could give solar technology development some more time to advance. Nat gas, lower by car in CO2 emissions than coal, could generate electricity to power electric cars enabled by the advances in battery technology described by Westbrook, not to mention Westbrook's stated objective of reducing oil demand, even while he argues for continued use of coal.

Add to this, and to my surprise, a BBC report that says indicators of human induced climate change are showing a possible cooling trend over the next 10 to 20 years with the warmest year on record being (play drum roll here) ... 1998. It says this may or may not indicate something is amiss with current thinking on (and models of) human induced climate change. And it seems to do so in an objective way, bringing in opinions from all sides of the debate.

But as one man's pleasure is another man's pain, the concluding Examiner article focuses on the respected journal Nature's angry response to the BBC article. You may enjoy the way it goes about doing this. Note to those who carry a flag for any particular cause: if you want to enhance your persuasiveness by seeming rational and balanced, try not to use words that make you sound pissed off (even if you're pissed off).

DOD policy makers and energy planners will do well to follow these discussions closely and not be too quick to jump into one camp or another.

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