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Sierra Daily

Mar 25, 2013

Maybe We're Not Doomed After All!

LabeyondcoalSpringtime is busting out all over--well, except where dramatic Arctic sea-ice loss is leading to frigid temperatures. But all of a sudden normally gloomy enviros are feeling unfamiliar sensations of hope for the future. Yours truly admits to same after watching last Friday's announcement by Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that his city would be entirely coal free by 2025. (Video of the event below.) Former vice president Al Gore concluded his barnburner of a speech this way:

If somebody had told you three years ago that on this beautiful March day, 58-60% of the American people would say, “We are in favor of gay marriage,” you would say, “No, we can’t change that much, that fast.” But we can, and we did, and we will win the carbon conversation, because we have been inspried by the city of angels.

Over at the often-dour Grist,Ted Glick asks "Are We Winning the Clean vs. Dirty Energy Battle?" and concludes in the affirmative. "[O]ver the last month or two . . . I’m beginning to believe that the human race has a fighting chance of preventing runaway, catastrophic climate change and, in so doing, open the way for a much more just, peaceful and democratic world." Among the reasons he lists are President Barack Obama's focus on the climate crisis in his State of the Union speech; the ongoing battle against the Keystone XL pipeline; and the explosive growth of renewable energy.

In the New York Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal considers whether there is "Life After Oil and Gas," and concludes that yes, it seems quite possible:

“It’s absolutely not true that we need natural gas, coal or oil — we think it’s a myth,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and the main author of the study, published in the journal Energy Policy. “You could power America with renewables from a technical and economic standpoint. The biggest obstacles are social and political — what you need is the will to do it.”

Most optimistic of all is Paul Gilding of the Post Carbon Institute with a powerful blog post, "Victory At Hand for the Climate Movement?" And once again, he finds that the answer is yes. 

There are signs the climate movement could be on the verge of a remarkable and surprising victory. . . . the fastest and most dramatic economic transformation in history. This would include the removal of the oil, coal and gas industries from the economy in just a few decades and their replacement with new industries and, for the most part, entirely new companies. It would be the greatest transfer of wealth and power between industries and countries the world has ever seen.

His short argument for why this miraculous transformation may come about is that "what was predominantly an ecological question in now primarily an economic one. . . . When non-fossil fuel companies understand the broad economic risk posed by the lack of climate action, they will become genuine and strong advocates demanding climate action – in their own self-interest."

We are now in a period of extremely rapid social transformation. Attitudes on marriage equality and immigration are shifting faster than anyone ever imagined. Let's hope our optimists are right that attitudes on climate change will follow.

 

Photo by LA Beyond Coal/Gloria Mena

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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