New Video: Climate Action is our Moon Shot

May 25, 2021

On this day, 60 years ago, May 25, 1961, John Kennedy challenged America to put a man on the moon before the end of that decade.

Though the technologies needed to achieve that goal had only been envisioned, not yet built, bold expert engineers thought the goal was within reach, and that the alternative, of ceding Cold War technological supremacy to the Soviet Union, was not acceptable.

Similarly today, President Biden has set goals for climate action that some feel are too optimistic. In our case the technologies needed are fully available already, with more improvements sure to come.

19 Responses to “New Video: Climate Action is our Moon Shot”

  1. pendantry Says:

    Fabulous man, JFK. He certainly knew where his towel was.

  2. jimbills Says:

    Honestly, the message here is a bit schizo. Seba’s message (and other techno-utopians) is that change is inevitable and imminent regardless of governmental policy. JFK’s message was that governmental policy wasn’t just important for change – it was essential.

    So, which is it?

    Renewable energy faces several hurdles: 1) its nature as an energy source (is one form of electricity better in substance than another?) and 2) extreme pushback from highly vested and powerful interests.

    The car, cell phone, digital cameras, you name it, were all inherently far superior to what they replaced – not a little superior, they were leagues above what they replaced. Someone getting power from a wind turbine has no idea of the difference between getting it from that or a natural gas plant. The incentive of superiority (besides fighting climate change, which capitalistic companies largely ignore) for buying that new product (like the car vs. the horse) doesn’t exist. So, it all (and largely only) comes down to price and how industry reacts to it. It’s bound to be a slower and more incremental process than other s-curve technologies.

    Additionally, there are real technical problems in adapting a grid and its reliability to that new power source. All of that takes time. It won’t be a smooth s-curve.

    On the governmental policy front, we’re nowhere near widespread acceptance of pushing for faster renewables adoption. We have a fractured and highly inefficient Congress, and we have incredibly powerful forces arrayed to prevent it from changing. But, and call me a crazy if one must, I think governmental policy is 100% essential to replacing fossil fuels in a timely enough manner.

    So, what is the future? Change is happening very soon no matter what government does – or that it is necessary to be pushed in that direction by policy?

    I know what I think, but it’s hard to tell what others do.

    • redskylite Says:

      While the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 seemed historically and technologically significant, if not amazing, it bears absolutely no resemblance to our struggle to avoid (or at least slow down) our journey to the next PETM like event. Tragically all of our fine words and all our actions seem pretty puny, when you consider the might and force of nature.

      ==============================
      “By some estimates, humans are now releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at more than 10 times the rate that led to the PETM.”

      https://news.umich.edu/egyptian-fossil-surprise-fishes-thrived-in-tropics-in-ancient-warm-period-despite-high-ocean-temperatures/

    • J4Zonian Says:

      You probably know what I think. I agree, in fact it’s incredibly obvious that government action is needed to ensure fast-enough deployment of the amounts of clean safe renewable energy, efficiency, and wiser lives necessary for civilization and most life on Earth to survive.

      Because of denial and psychopathy that’s not being heeded; “thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

      At this point the gap between the speed we’re doing it and the speed it needs to happen has gotten so huge that the government actions discussed (but never seriously considered, let alone implemented) by most oligarchic Democrats—a carbon price, eg—aren’t nearly enough. The goal that almost everyone in government, business and non-profits seems to have fastened on—net zero by 2050—is meaningless drivel meant only to seem bold while putting off any real action until everyone in power now is retired and safely out of the way of the political price they seem convinced will be paid by the proponents of real action. Having an inadequate goal that won’t be met, proposing means that won’t meet it, and then ignoring everything it would take to implement those means is compounded Paris-level suicidal deception.

      The science clearly shows we have no time left to waste, as the Democrats and corporations are currently doing and obviously plan to continue. Like Paris, this last of multiple levels of delay is to plan something far too little now, call it bold for political cover, and hope to speed up later “if needed”*. It’s like starting out walking in the 100-meter Olympic race final, thinking we can speed up if we need to when we get to the half-way point, and see how we’re doing. Unfortunately climate catastrophe will be sitting in the infield putting its sweats back on by then.

      *Actually the plan seems to be the same as the Republicans’ plan—to slow-walk everything until something comes along that allows us to do the job without upsetting anyone or threatening donors’ profits, even the fossil fuel barons. IOW, the plan is to wait until carbon capture, nonexistent nukes or other magical devices appear, or until the current crop of lying psychopaths in business and government is retired.

      Or maybe they’re counting on new science showing everybody’s been wrong and the effects of warming will be less and later than expected. There’s no hope of that; the snapshots of climate knowledge the science-ignorant are relying on are inadequate. We need to look at the flip books showing there’s been only one direction as knowledge of climate change has progressed; toward awareness that warming is proceeding faster than expected, benchmark temperatures are being reached earlier than expected, the effects at each temperature are worse than expected, and that the rate of change is accelerating. If it’s not the fastest sort of S-curve, compelled by knowledge of the vast difference between fossil fuel and nuclear vs. clean safe renewable energy, civilization won’t survive. I don’t know what to say to people who think that’s less compelling than the difference between a flip phone and one you can watch TV on. I just do everything I can to encourage awareness and sanity.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      solar is moving at an s-curve pace right now, as is clean energy writ large.
      certainly true that government action is not separate from this development – federal research has been a big driver, and incentives will continue to be.
      That is not different from other developments, like superhighways, microprocessors, and the internet.
      never the less we seem to have reached the explosive growth part of the curve, where all the big players are jumping in, so I’m optimistic that change will be rapid.

      • jimbills Says:

        Okay. In contrast, I’m pessimistic about the obstacles we face in achieving the steep upslope of the s-curve. People like Seba take it as inevitable no matter what we do, and it’s a bit infuriating to me. I see it as a false promise that will only many to complacency, dulling the impetus for strong governmental policy. It’s faith-based thinking.

        For the record, here is the IEA on future challenges to solar, and why they predict linear growth instead of exponential at the steep slope of the s-curve:
        https://www.iea.org/commentaries/is-exponential-growth-of-solar-pv-the-obvious-conclusion

        “For now, policy has been the key driver in accelerating deployment, but maintaining this growth rate would far outpace established policy goals.”

        And yes, granted, the IEA is often to always wrong on their predictions in regards to solar.

        Also for the record, MUCH of the exponential growth we’ve achieved thus far has been due to policy, especially Chinese policy. This isn’t just research – but concrete governmental policies.

  3. redskylite Says:

    “The future described by the IEA report is alluring, and not just for those of us alarmed by the threat of climate change. The energy transition would create 14 million new jobs, it says, and the work of retrofitting old buildings and infrastructure could create 16 million more.”

    https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/05/is-1-5-degrees-still-possible.html

    • redskylite Says:

      “The public are not in this space at the moment; I don’t think they understand yet the full implications of the green revolution.”

      https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57234610

      • J4Zonian Says:

        The BBC article is inexcusably deceptive. It talks extensively about the increase in mining for certain minerals and mentions 2 well-known inflammatory sources (China and the Congo) but neglects to mention that the amount of mining for fossil fuels is roughly 100,000 times more, and those and other equally destructive and immoral minerals are used extensively for fossil and fissile fuels as well as lots of other applications. These are arguments used constantly by right wing economic trolls, fossil-fueled climate denying delayalists, and anti-renewable fanatics. I’m curious about whether the article was intentionally dishonest or stupidly gullible and lazy about research.

        • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

          Both ‘sides’ invoke the negatives of mining when it suits their purpose. Poisoning watersheds and smothering large numbers of people under sludge etc are bad. A perspective is that mines are pin pricks upon the verdant vista’s of agriculture. These bucolic ranges ‘destroy’ the natural environment at a rate thousands of times greater than mining. Being addicted to eating, am not complaining (much) about that, or the mining needed to do it. When talking about necessary minerals to save the world, go for it. If a small piece of the planet gets buggered, very short answer, to bad, so sad.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            Sorry, trying to paint both sides with the same brush is also a dishonest ploy called “false equivalence”. The proponents of clean safe renewable energy use arguments about the effects of mining because they’re true and on the side of clean safe renewable energy. Those folks want to reduce the harm humans cause life on Earth as much as possible, and obviously, clean safe renewable energy is one of the best ways to do that. The proponents of fossil and fissile fuels use mining arguments because it confuses the issue and they’re lying.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            Dear J4, read yours, read mine, they are the same. No painting is being done.

          • J4Zonian Says:

            You: “Both ‘sides’ invoke the negatives of mining when it suits their purpose.”

            That’s not true.

            Which is what I said.

            If there’s a part of mine where I said something like that please point it out.

        • jimbills Says:

          I don’t disagree the principle that FF is far worse than renewables in the big picture, but where did you get the 100,000x worse figure for FF mining?

          No matter how it’s sliced, there will be major impacts from renewables mining:
          https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-17928-5

          “Mining threats to biodiversity will increase as more mines target materials for renewable energy production and, without strategic planning, these new threats to biodiversity may surpass those averted by climate change mitigation.”

          “However, the production of renewable energies is also material-intensive—much more so than fossil fuels—meaning that future production will also escalate demand for many metals”

          • J4Zonian Says:

            It’s an odd combination of silly, ridiculous, and insane to think that the effects of mining for renewables will exceed the effects of climate catastrophe, which at this point are more likely than not to be the extinction of most life on Earth or worse.

            I see that people responsible for the direction of clean safe renewables care enough to improve siting and design of wind turbines to reduce their already minuscule effects on wildlife; to increase recycling of turbine blades, lithium and other materials, improving equipment from only 90 or 95% recyclable as they are now, to 100% recyclable, and to search for other solar and battery chemistries with even less ecological impact than current technologies. It’s impossible to imagine them giving up so completely that they allow renewables to become anywhere near as destructive as any one of many parts of our current economy—coal, gas, oil, nuclear, agriculture, chemicals, clothing, entertainment, transportation…

            100,000x more coal is being mined than lithium*, even after the recent decreases in coal burning. And even though lithium mining will increase, it’s a relatively benign process from start to finish, and the increase will be limited by recycling and other even more benign and plentiful replacements. You can read about them here, in David Roberts’ Volts blog (his month-long battery week just ended), and other places. And that’s just comparing lithium to coal; add gas, oil, and nuclear, and it’s likely to be well over 100,000 times the impact of all mining and processing for solar, wind, geothermal, etc.

            From my informal research it seems that the amounts of steel, concrete, earth metals, and other materials used by fossil and fissile fuels are equal to or greater than that used for the same amount of energy from clean safe renewable sources. We’ll temporarily be using more because we have to replace so much destructive energy infrastructure so fast, but after that it will be much less, since clean safe renewable energy doesn’t need constant replenishment, mining, drilling, processing, and transport of fuels in addition to the infrastructure materials and energy.

            *https://climatecrocks.com/2021/04/21/lithium-and-copper-the-new-oil/

  4. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Note to Pete Greenperson which may or may not be of interest. The adds appearing down here are specific to Ozstralia. Still find the specificity amazing.

  5. J4Zonian Says:

    I had technical trouble posting my response the last time this issue came up and can’t remember if it finally worked, but as I tried to say then, the changes required by multi-faceted ecological catastrophe are nothing like the moon shot. That was an extremely narrow engineering task that changed nothing in the lives of the US or world public, except Tang. Climate and the larger ecological catastrophe is going to change everything about our lives, and so will the changes we have to make to avoid the worst and adapt to what we can’t avoid.

    If people think it’s just the difference between plugging into a socket filled by a wind farm instead of a gas burner, we’ll fail, and civilization will end. It’s not that simple a switch, of course, and the oligarchy therefore has no intention of letting the needed changes happen. If we don’t therefore get rid of the oligarchy, we’ll fail, and civilization will end.

    Market “forces” driven by the usual Wetiko-infected people and institutions obviously won’t be enough, any more than they have been for the last 40 years. We’ve passively wished and waited for change for so long that it’s too late for tweaking them with a carbon price to be enough either. So if we want to avoid utter collapse, global chaos, and horrific suffering that doesn’t end on any timescale we can think in, we have to replace the US-international oligarchy with a truly democratic government.

    It will need to nationalize the fossil fuel, agro-chemical, ICEV, banking, and other industries to coordinate their shut-down and replacement, revitalize rail and build interconnected publicly-owned free local and regional commuter systems and a national/international high speed rail network in the next 10 years, switch to small-scale low-meat organic permaculture, revolutionize industry, radically equalize domestically and internationally, (by banishing mbillionaires through taxation, filling the Green Climate Fund with their trillions, and above all, provide better childhoods and mutually supporting lives for everyone.

    We don’t need a moon shot; we need a combination New Deal and war mobilization, with a Brooklyn Project to dramatically speed development of floating offshore wind, a Bronx Project for abundantly-funded parallel development of battery chemistries, a Queens Project for multiple tracks of solar PV improvements and a Staten Island Project for CSP, a Project to propagate green steel production, a Southie Project for ecological concrete, others for teaching cob and adobe, regenerative ag, and biomimicry…


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