Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Paris Accord shifts us left and won’t work

By Scott Tinker, For the Express-News. Scott Tinker is the Allday Endowed Chair of Subsurface Geology and director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. Excerpts:
"The 195 countries that signed the accord were motivated by various circumstances and desires. For example, some countries are not required to alter current energy plans. Others will be paid to do just that. Some see climate change as having a negative impact on them. Many have a need for increased energy, and renewables provide a distributed option. And all recognize that the accord is voluntary and unenforceable.

Approaches to wealth inequality, climate and energy vary, and reasonable science supports different approaches. Most agree that global wealth inequality is unhealthy. Three billion people live in various states of poverty, with limited access to clean water, food, housing, education, health care or hope. The philosophies to address inequality range from full-scale wealth redistribution on the left, to a growing global economy lifting undeveloped nations from poverty on the right. The accord moves hard left by urging a wealth-redistribution approach.

Simply stated, affordable and reliable energy is required to lift underdeveloped nations and impoverished people from poverty. Today, 86 percent of global energy comes from fossil fuels — oil, natural gas and coal.

No form of energy is “good” or “bad” environmentally. True, fossil fuels require mining and drilling, and emit carbon dioxide when combusted for transportation and power generation; and wind and solar do not emit carbon dioxide. But let’s not kid ourselves: All forms of energy at scale have negative environmental impacts. In addition to well-documented wildlife damage, a vast amount of land and mining will be needed to manufacture and install the necessary number of wind turbines, solar panels and solar mirrors to make a dent in global demand; erect the transmission towers and power lines to distribute the electricity; and manufacture and dispose of the very large batteries required to power electric cars and back up intermittent wind and solar.

By labeling renewables as “good,” the accord moves to the political left.

Paris showed that it is possible to get many nations to sign a common environmental accord. Unfortunately, the accord conflated action on climate change with energy and wealth-inequality politics. An apolitical focus on emissions — one that avoids picking energy winners and payment schemes — could result in an agreement that would address emissions at scale. Addressing carbon dioxide emissions at scale and in the time frames required must include nuclear, increased energy efficiency, natural gas and even coal — where the economics and geology allow the emissions to be captured and sequestered.

Underdeveloped and developing nations need access to all forms of energy so they can create robust economies of their own, and afford the cost of adaptation and environmental stewardship."

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