Attitudes towards climate change vary. Some have doubts, but even fish know better as they migrate north to cooler waters. Meanwhile, advocates agree that human influence is clear, but they are divided on how to address climate change, with too much focus on individual energy sources when in reality all non-carbon sources of energy have major problems. The divisions amongst advocates can undermine national energy policies and render U.S. policymakers ineffective. But most importantly, divisions amongst advocates rallying for an ‘all-solar,’ ‘all-nuclear,’ or ‘all-anything’ energy system ignore large problems facing a carbon-free future and risk climate change failure.
There are numerous problems and realities facing a carbon-free future. In 2014 fossil fuels plus nuclear power produced 86% of the nation’s electricity. Replacing this 86% by 2050 would cost trillions of dollars and would require the equivalent of putting over two 1000 megawatt plants, at 90% capacity, online every month for the next 417 months. The California’s Energy Future study also concluded that California could not meet its GHG reduction goal of 80% below their 1990 level by 2050 because there is no recognized carbon-free way to replace high energy density liquid fuels. And finally, even if carbon-free electricity was brought into each of the 134 million housing units in the U.S. it still is not compatible with popular fossil fuel burning end-use devices, such as gas-fired space heaters. Carbon-free electricity is near useless unless you simultaneously create a carbon-free continuum with end-use devices.
Mother nature will burn our forests, cause droughts and flooding, drown out low-lying islands and coastal areas, and threaten food production. To mitigate these effects, our attitudes about climate must change. But this change is not confined to persuading the doubters, because a cooperative, multi-faceted approach to the impact of climate change is essential. The non-carbon electricity community needs to rethink its silo mentality and embrace diversity. Failing to deal with climate change because of the silo mentalities within the carbon-free community is inexcusable.