Does global warming call for a World War II style effort?
Written by Walter Falk 1-15-08
Lester Brown says that we can achieve that goal. Brown, whom Time magazine calls “one of the U.S.’s most respected environmentalists”, summarized his views in a January 4, 2008 podcast by the magazine. Brown says that in the last two years there have been a number of indications that the earth is warming faster than scientists had earlier predicted. This summer’s melting of the Arctic ice cap that opened up a northwest sea passage was widely reported. A mile thick glacier in Greenland that used to move at 120 meters per year is now moving at 2 meters per hour! Glaciers in the Himalayas are now melting so fast that they will be gone by mid-century, with catastrophic consequences for the water supply of Asia. And so on. Therefore Brown concludes we need to speed up our efforts to a war-time tempo, beyond what is currently being planned, and he advocates an 80 % world-wide reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.
To get to this goal so fast Brown wants us to focus, above all, on the development of wind power paired with rechargeable hybrid cars. To achieve his 2020 goal he says the world needs to produce and install 2 million wind turbines. These would supply 40% of the world’s energy needs. These turbines would be grouped in wind farms in the most windy places, such as in the Midwest plains, Texas, etc., and linked by a refurbished national grid (which we need anyway) to population centers. Brown points to some current projects as an example of what is possible. In Texas, for instance, the governor (a Republican!) is bringing to fruition a project of about ten wind farms linked to major cities that will produce, when completed, the electric power equivalent of 23 coal plants.
Brown reminds us that during World War II the U.S. was able to ramp up industrial production enormously in just a very few years. In no time at all we produced more than 220,000 planes, thousands of tanks, million of tons of shipping and a whole new source of energy, i.e. nuclear energy. What we could do then we certainly can achieve in our day and thus reach the carbon reduction goal that he thinks we must. All that is necessary is the political will to do it.
Lester Brown’s ideas are set forth in his just published book Plan B 3.0