Maybe we can unite over energy technology

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    I used to believe that if people were informed of science re issues such as biodiversity loss and climate change, there would be broad shifts in behaviour leading to us broadly doing the right things. Clearly, I was quite wrong!

    Yet seems it may still be possible to encourage actions that science indicates are advisable. I've seen a little on this topic lately; just read text of a speech on climate change and technology, which includes:

    t wasn't that long ago that much of the American political establishment came to believe that the science of climate would transcend ideological and national boundaries and result in common national and global action. The idea was that climate scientists would tell us what the safe level of atmospheric emissions was, and that nations would take shared steps to reducing their emissions over the next 50 years.

    But things didn't work out that way. …

    What happened was effectively the opposite of what most of the scientific and political establishment predicted. More scientific research divided rather than united the polity.

    Skepticism about, and outright rejection of, climate science has long been motivated by skepticism or rejection of particular climate policies. … if you pay attention to climate skeptics what you will often find underneath the talk of sunspots, water vapor, and the myriad uncertainties is a visceral resistance to proposals that would expand state regulatory power, slow economic growth, or mandate lifestyle changes.

    Over time, both sides constructed increasingly baroque fantasies of the other. To partisan greens, skeptics are fossil fuel-funded and brainwashed planet killers too stingy to spend a postage stamp a day to save the world from imminent apocalypse. To the partisan skeptic, greens seeking emissions caps are crypto-socialist watermelons whose policies would destroy the global economy and rapidly goosestep us into U.N. governance.

    the debate over climate science became polarized along exactly the same lines as the energy debate. Liberals doubled down on their conviction that solar and wind power and efficiency and conservation were ready to be scaled up to replace fossil fuels only now the scale and timeline for doing so were even more unrealistic. Greens now insisted that renewables and efficiency were ready to remake the entire global energy system in short order. Conservatives, meanwhile, insisted that there was no reason to move away from fossil fuel extraction and consumption, even as they continued to advocate that the nation move to nuclear power. 

    things started to change in a surprising direction. Many of the climate scientists most alarmed by global warming were making the case to their friends in the green movement that scaling up nuclear power was critical to reducing emissions, since renewables remain expensive and difficult to scale. 

    Technology unites its users around its use. We might support the expansion of nuclear power and electric cars in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic global warming while Steve might support them to reduce America's dependence on imported foreign oil. We might also support policies aimed at making clean energy technologies much cheaper for similarly different reasons.

    In the face of so much potential for technology to unite us, the continued insistence that climate science must be the central motivation for global action toward low-carbon power development and deployment can only be understood as religious. And after 20 years of climate wars the insistence that ever-more climate science will bring us together must now be understood as a kind of a blind faith.

    Why Climate Science Divides Us But Energy Technology Unites Us

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