Joe Romm is a Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Founding Editor and blogger at Think Progress.
Lots of writers want the freedom to criticize those who defend the 2°C target and the very aggressive deployment of carbon-free power that such a target entails. But they know that if they actually put their own target on the table, they would be conceding humanity’s self-destruction, disputing the scientific literature or requiring the very aggressive deployment of carbon-free power they criticize.
A classic example of such an essay is the “Ecomodernist Manifesto” featured in the NY Times this week. Errors aside, this 31-page tome is a waste of time because it doesn’t tell you what the authors think should be our goal with climate action. They offer no temperature target, no CO2 concentration target, not even a broad one. The first and last mention of any target is on page 20 when the authors explain that while “Nations have also been slowly decarbonizing — that is, reducing the carbon intensity of their economies … they have not been doing so at a rate consistent with keeping cumulative carbon emissions low enough to reliably stay below the international target of less than 2 degrees Centigrade of global warming.” True.
Then the authors immediately say, “Significant climate mitigation, therefore, will require that humans rapidly accelerate existing processes of decarbonization.” Also true. Then they say, “There remains much confusion, however, as to how this might be accomplished.” No, not true at all — certainly not for the 2°C target. And not even for a 3°C target. These sentences are apparently a clever rhetorical bait-and-switch to make you think that the authors endorse the 2°C target, which they never do, while all the time they are recommending a course of action that can’t possibly hit 2°C or even 3°C.
And the 2°C target means, according to the IEA again, that you have the stop investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure by 2017!
But the ecomodernists want to keep building new fossil fuel plants. They are in no hurry whatsoever, writing things like “In the long run, next-generation solar, advanced nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion represent the most plausible pathways toward the joint goals of climate stabilization and radical decoupling of ￼humans from nature.” Seriously? Nuclear fusion?
Addendum to time-saving secrets: Skip any article that lists nuclear fusion as one of the “most plausible” answers to climate stabilization. How is a technology for which there is no evidence commercial viability will occur in a timescale that matters to humanity one of “the most plausible pathways”?