Monday, May 24, 2010

They Just Don’t Care

bored This not very objective comment in the Guardian about a new poll canvassing British attitudes to various energy issues struck us as interesting. After noting that public concern over global warming has drooped, Owen Bowcott continues thusly:

The numbers of those interested in where Britain's electricity comes from have also slipped back, according to a survey commissioned by the energy company EDF, demonstrating what appears to be growing consumer complacency in an era of electric-powered gadgetry.

Well, we wouldn’t call it complacency, really.

Might it be that stirring up the energy pot didn’t generate enough muck to stick to disfavored sources? As if to demonstrate this, the poll, taken by YouVote for EDF, has more alarming news:

Among Lib Dems [Liberal Democrats], the coalition party explicitly opposed to new nuclear building – as many as 58% of supporters believe "nuclear energy has disadvantages, but the country needs it to be part of the energy balance", according to the survey. Slightly fewer, 47%, are in favor of the construction of new nuclear power stations; 32% are opposed.

Which means the Lib Dems might need to rethink its position, yes?

In the end, we think that there is just no more traction for anti-nuclear energy arguments in Great Britain – whether to push for favored energy sources or just out of nuclear animus, these arguments have faded.

And that’s to the good. This story doesn’t provide one key detail about the Lib Dems and nuclear energy, but Business Green catches it:

As part of the coalition agreement, the Lib Dems have agreed to abstain on parliamentary votes on new nuclear plants, effectively allowing the Conservatives to pursue plans for up to 10 new nuclear reactors to be built over the next decade.

We should note that, despite not caring, the British have been warming to nuclear energy for awhile. This 2008 Independent story about a earlier EDF poll shows nuclear energy already gaining favor.

So, as often happens when we read The Guardian about nuclear energy, even when it’s on the right track, we find ourselves thinking, Sheesh!

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But the EDF poll also caught a fading interest in climate change as an issue. Just to remind everyone that climate change is real and quite dangerous, the National Academy of Science has released a trio of reports on the subject, all viewable online:

A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.

Commissioned by Congress, the reports are called Advancing the Science of Climate Change, Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change and Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change.

We haven’t read through them all yet – they’re pretty dense reads – but the level of fright they invoke is right up there with Stephen King. Except that instead of ghouls from the fifth dimension stirring up trouble, we’re the ghouls from the fifth dimension.

We’ll have more to say on these reports later. In the meantime, consider them beach reading.

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The New York Times takes note of the new National Academies reports in an editorial:

We hope the reports will jolt the United States Senate into moving forward on an energy and climate bill. They provide an authoritative rebuttal to skeptics in the Senate and industry who have pounced upon small errors in the 2007 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to suggest that the whole thing is a hoax.

The Time is a little more doubtful of a positive outcome than we are, but the point is well taken. While CO2 emissions dropped 2.9 percent in 2008, that’s attributable – in large part – to spiked gas prices and a tanked economy.

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Also in the Times editorial

The reports acknowledge that while the magnitude of these risks — sea level rise, drought, disease, the destruction of marine- and land-based ecosystems — are difficult to predict, society would be wise to move swiftly and aggressively to minimize them.

We include that just to demonstrate how abstract climate change is. Some things might happen – sometime – in an unknowable future. This provides an opening to do nothing – as some members of the Senate demonstrate – but that’s not same as not caring.

The tide has swept over the issue of global warming and the world is moving to correct it – slowly – not without countervailing forces – but inexorably moving. People can see this and are free to turn attention elsewhere. In the meantime, the value of nuclear energy as a carbon emission reducing agent is well understood. As the EDF poll indicates, that battle is over.

Kids are great at just not caring.

2 comments:

SteveK9 said...

Couple of hot summers and they will 'care' again. Sometimes leaders have to lead, otherwise the public will be certain there is a problem, when it is so obvious that dealing with it will be impossible or incredibly expensive.

DocForesight said...

@SteveK9 -- I thought that individual events or seasons were of no, or little, indicative value as regards the climate change debate. We were told that in no uncertain terms last winter with the unusual snowfall in DC -- actually, that was a sure-fire example of AGW, increased precipitation! So which is it: climate changes gradually over years and decades or single events and seasons are harbingers of the effect? You can't have it both ways.

Did anyone at NEI notice there was the Fourth International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago on May 16-18? Did anyone take note of the 70+ presenters, their credentials or their topics? Or is the UN IPCC the sole gatekeeper of all knowledge on AGW? Credibility calls for balanced reporting.