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On Tuesday night, Eban Goodstein stood before an audience of mainly college students at the University of Montana and urged them to take action in making climate change the most important issue of their generation. “This really is the mission of your generation, and with that mission you cannot afford to fail,” he said. Goodstein, a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College in Portland Oregon and founder of Focus the Nation, was speaking as part of the University’s Wilderness Issues Lecture Series. Goodstein said that in order to posses technologies such as solar energy and wind power that will be vital for dealing with global warming, today’s college students must convince their leaders to make investments right now. Goodstein called the process “intergenerational gift giving” and said that it is necessary considering the level of restructuring required by future generations.

Climate Change Action the Mission of a Generation, Goodstein Says

On Tuesday night, Eban Goodstein stood before an audience of mainly college students at the University of Montana and urged them to take action in making climate change the most important issue of their generation.

“This really is the mission of your generation, and with that mission you cannot afford to fail,” he said.

Goodstein, a professor of economics at Lewis and Clark College in Portland Oregon and founder of Focus the Nation, was speaking as part of the University’s Wilderness Issues Lecture Series. Goodstein said that in order to posses technologies such as solar energy and wind power that will be vital for dealing with global warming, today’s college students must convince their leaders to make investments right now. Goodstein called the process “intergenerational gift giving” and said that it is necessary considering the level of restructuring required by future generations.

“You guys are going to have to rewire the entire planet with clean energy technologies,” he said.

Efforts to curb global emissions and transition to clean energy should be promoted by the United States Government by investing $30 to $40 billion a year in renewable energy technologies, Goodstein. He acknowledged that the cost would be high, but said that it is well within the realm of possibility considering the monthly tab for the Iraq war could account for almost half of his proposed yearly investment. Goodstein noted that America’s disproportionate level of pollution — accounting for over 20 percent of the world’s CO2 with only four percent of its population — places the responsibility to reduce the atmosphere’s carbon blanket and stabilize the climate largely on our shoulders.

“The reality is that only the power of the U.S. government is going to be the agent that can make these collective changes,” he said.

Despite the growing public support for clean energy technologies and emissions reductions, Goodstein pointed to a lack of political will as the main obstacle preventing federal mandates to cut carbon, promote clean energy, or allow U.S. involvement in global efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol.

“It’s as if the only people who don’t get how serious global warming is happen to live within the beltway in Washington D.C.,” he said.

Because of the sluggish nature of the federal government and its susceptibility to gridlock and political pandering, Goodstein said it is unrealistic to think change will occur without outside pressure. Goodstein told interested audience members to volunteer with local organizations such as Missoula’s Global Warming Solution and also participate in national efforts such as Power Shift and Focus the Nation. These grassroots efforts, he said, are capable of initiating national policy change that can stabilize global CO2 emissions somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 parts per million. Goodstein’s plans for next February’s Focus the Nation include expanding the number of involved colleges and institutions from 1,900 to over 10,000 and increasing the number of national politicians from 75 to 375.

“This is not a protest movement,” he said, “this is a solutions movement.”

Goodstein offered a sense of historical perspective on the issue, citing instances of change such as abolition and women’s suffrage that were driven by the efforts of concerned citizens who acted to change government policies.

He presented two possible futures, one with massive extinctions and environmental collapse and the other with noticeable differences but still retaining a recognizable environment. Goodstein advised his audience to work for the best possible future, so that in the year 2040, today’s students can say that they fulfilled their duty.

“By that time you will have brought an end to the fossil fuel era,” he said. “Are you ready?”

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17 comments

  1. B..b..b..b..b..but it snowed in Boise this morning!

    There, thats out of the way. Next!

  2. Craig, has posted the Argos robot findings, but somehow some folks seem to believe that blowing lots more hot air talking up global warming over and over will make it true.
    Scientists are now admitting the earth has not warmed since 1998, and has actually cooled a little but no a statistically significant amount.
    Maybe the air is heating up so much where these guys are expounding on the idea that they think it is warmer. This has been a very long cold winter, and I for one am ready for even a little global warming.

  3. I believe the term I am looking for here is … liar.

    Name the scientists and I’ll show you their funding tracks back to oil companies or they have no climatology background.

    Yes, we are on a plateau at the moment, but there have been dozens of small plateaus since the industrial age began. Since 1998 we are still 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than before the industrial age began and the general trend doesn’t indicate a cooling.

    This is the last reply I will make to you, Marion. I’m tired of your uneducated blather.

  4. Actually Jay, even if you don’t answer me, that is ok. But if you are able to track funding for scientists, I’d really like to know how to track it for all scientists. I am amazed at how many researcheers on any side are PhDs, not scientists in any particular speialty, including the one they work on. You could post it for all of us.

  5. This discussion was hijacked before it even began – flamethrowing is not carbon neutral! The dismissal in the initial comment was, I hope, borne of frustration rather than genuine intent to derail discussion – but it has had that effect. Let us get back to the subject matter – though diverse viewpoints may be respectfully expressed.

    Through this particular talk, Eban Goodstein provided good meat for discussion based upon one of a number of solutions to current concerns (whatever their source) – clean energy without fossil fuels by 2040.

    Discussion of how we can “rewire the planet” to this end when fossil fuel burning new-industrial countries are now or soon to be manufacturing the vast majority of the “hardware” and selling it to us to be transported on fossil fuel burning ships raises a whole area of “solutions discussions” worthy of this site and helpful to everyone, including the economics viewpoint that is Professor Goodstein’s area of expertise.

    Along the way if fossil fuel investors, who include a great percentage of public pension funds and individual private investment can be encouraged- enthused -enabled with ideas for transition while our current system is weaned off fossil fuels, many of the judged “naysayers” may suddenly be the greatest advocates of change!

    How about it? Make Eban Goodstein’s efforts bear fruit through respectful dialogue whether you agree with them or dissent!

  6. First of all, I am in favor of alternative fuels and wise use of what we have, but I do not like seeing it tied to supposed global warming. Secondly we need to have environmental groups involved and investing. Something is wrong when they are able to prevent wind energy, coal fired electic plants etc, no matter what kind of efficiency they have.
    I think it is going to be imperative to have environmental groups investing. Business has no incentive to spend millions on research and the ground work only to have it shot down by evironmental groups worried about potential harm to birds, or scenery or whatever the lawyers can come up with. We will not solve anything as long as we have this adversarial process.
    I think fossil fuels will always have apart in our energy needs, if nothing else in helping boost other types of energy, such as the coal fired electric plants. No one is served if we allow a few groups, even rich environmental groups hold the country hostage demanding “perfect” sources, at least perfect to them.
    One thing not mentioned is nuclear power. I know there is work toward that, but again I am sure special interest groups will work towardholding it up as long as possible or stop it.
    There can be no solutions until environmental groups work toward a goal along with other businesses.

  7. An important challenge is to create enough of a stir here in the United States to justify an industry that will produce the new “clean hardware” within the States, so that our wind turbines and solar panels don’t have to be flown in from the Netherlands. Also, how do we decrease the demand for raspberries in December? We all know it’s possible to get by on what we have locally – a million years of local hunting and gathering can’t be wrong (and those raspberries taste like toothpaste anyhow).
    But more importantly, from what Eban said, and what Al Gore says in his new slideshow, we need to work to change laws if we want to see real change. Which of the presidential candidates will sign the Kyoto Protocol? Which will endorse a carbon tax?

  8. Despite your beliefs about global warming, it makes sense to do things in a sustainable & clean fashion. An interesting by-product of doing this is an influx of technology which has proven benefits in the economy. Eban made the point of how 100 years ago our primary mode of transportation was horses. The shift took only 30 or 40 years from horse to car. Why not gas to electric cars in 20 to 30? The economic possibilities in this make me want to start up an electric car business or wind generator retail shop.

    Clearly the quickest changes occur from the top down. Regulatory controls such as carbon taxes and the Kyoto Protocol are key to spurring the market into action. An obvious example is the SO2 (acid rain) reduction program which was basically a cap & trade system. It cut acid rain by more than half!

    Don’t think that corporations like GM and Chevron aren’t already aboard the sustainability train. They have cutting-edge technology already, but have no reason to sell it. If you doubt this, just watch “Who Killed the Electric Car.” The minute they’re forced to change, they’ll be ready to capture the market. But, the real question remains: who’s gonna force them?

  9. Now you’re thinking out of the box or something, the country is facing a recession, mostly from trying to let folks live in bigger more expensive houses than they could afford. So we need to devise a new tax. Smmmaaart! Not.
    First of all there are already lots of little economical cars available, you just have to be willing to settle for one of them. Second, electric cars aren’t cheap, and unless you use a hybrid you still have to buy electric. Remember my earlier post about the electric plants that do not exist because of environmental controls. When the enviros kept a couple in Wyoming from being built, they are 2 of 29 around the country. The spokesman flat stated they would keep all new electric plants from being built. So what are you planning to plug that car into?
    As for Kyoto, even the idiots we have in congress realize that is not even reasonable. The last thing we need in more international control over America.
    We may not need raspberries in winter, but we do need other staples like flour, sugar, cereal, definitely coffee, and so on. Now your trip to town for a latte could be eliminated.
    Again, it has to be cooperation between the environmental industry and power producers to come up with acceptable alternative fuels. It is also up to the rest of us to cut our fuel consumption with smaller cars, (my Focus gets 30-35 MPH), less long vacations etc.
    The most imprtant thing is for the environmental industry and fuel producers, and manufacturers to work together. We are doomed to failure if we expect for profit business to spend millions to develop new technology, anly to have the environmentla industry shoot it down. Cooperation is the most essential component.

  10. This effort takes a “whole court press”, from little personal things to the big picture. Obviously, government, world-wide environmental bureaucracies, mega-business, et.al., cannot achieve the whole thing without your personal commitment.
    Remember the original “Earth Day” and 70’s energy crisis little things, and do them. A periodic personal, family and business “waste reduction program” can realize significant and cost-free (profit-gaining) results. Eliminating waste is “low hanging fruit” that also reduces energy use substantially. The exercise needs to be repeated seasonally, just as fruit is harvested and regrows.

    A few brief examples (I’ll bet that someone here can link to massive, all inclusive lists already on the web to help us all pick the fruit): We have committed to two car-free days per week. We have recommitted to combining trips – necessary with normal chores combined – and discussing needs to assure this occurs – few emergency “forgot” trips occur. Our sports life has taken a turn – with great “pain” we have given up night-lighted sports, and distant trips to stadiums to watch over-paid “athletes” compete. No spring break flights to Cancun or Hawaii. We have reduced paper consumption including cancelling seldom read periodicals (the good stuff is on the web) and the vast array of mail-order catalogs (also on the web with e-mailed specials). The list goes on and on.

    Now, I know, that won’t stop climate change in a few years, but it has positive efforts. A 10% reduction by trimming the waste is easily done and generates money to help afford replacing energy hog cars and appliances when they wear out, for example.

    I’ve done this with a sizable business over several decades – and ended up with more income and benefits for everyone on board, less waste, and more clients who appreciated application to their businesses – and on and on.

    Let’s go for it!

  11. Interestingly enough I came across this article this morning outlining the environmental crisis that was going to destroy life on earth. This is the last 40 years from population explosion to global freeze to global warm, etc. As long and cold as this winter has been, I worry that we are on our way back to global freeze again.

    http://eteam.ncpa.org/commentaries/environmental-hysterics

  12. There is a difference between the local “weather” and climate.

    Models supporting global warming also support greater amounts of snowfall in certain regions, colder winters in certain regions, along with warming in other regions. Record snowfall in areas could actually support the warming model. Of course, as I have indicated before, taking a multi-variable model and reducing it to correlation with a single variable is not scientifically sound.

  13. Here’s a heretical thought. If you think global warming caused climate change is not real in the “popular” sense, and that the next ice age will be the logical next cyclical step, support alternatives to fossil fuel for energy use now (since may think fossil fuel burning with its carbon expulsion causes warming), and save the fossil fuels to damper the effects of the upcoming ice age – when they will do some good!

  14. haha great thought Chaos Tamer.

  15. dan,
    i like what you said a lot, and i agree that our mission should always (and not only when we’re tottering on the brink of drastic environmental change) be “to find ways to become more efficient”, but is that the best way to mobilize (to use a military term as mentioned by previous speaker mary wood) the country to rise to the challenge of radically lowering or carbon output and quickly reforming a fossil-fuels based infrastructure?

    the terms ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ are polarizing, but they also have created tons of discussion here, which is necessary to get the facts out.

  16. Please don’t feed the troll.

  17. Izaak, Thanks for the comments.

    I guess I think that becoming “more efficient” is a mission that everyone can support–not just the environmentalists, but also corporations who, by far, have the money to support such a mission. You see, I know how corporations think. They want their ROI. Their quantifiable “Return On Investment”. It is a common ground that everyone can embrace without getting into a paralyzing and polarizing debate over cause and effect. ROI is quantifiable. Today.

    If you use less energy to make something more efficiently, then profitability should increase. If you use less energy, your raw material production costs go down. And, as a side effect, your emissions are reduced!

    If you can make something for less, you can *probably* gain a couple more percentage points on the profit margin.

    That is why I always talk about LCA in conjunction with ROI. ROI can be money, or it can be the carbon balance–the mind set should be that they really are one and the same.

    I mean, as a single example, why would you consider making hydrogen for automobiles–if it it produced more pollution in its actual production (carbon dioxide, + others), used more energy to produce than it provided as an end fuel, AND cost more money to make, distribute, store, and use? [as is the example in the most current and common ways of the “hydrogen economy”].

    I will give you a more immediate example. A gas fired boiler is a common item in industry. It uses a lot of energy to make *usable* steam heat energy for making things in a plant. Putting a reverse osmosis water treatment in the boiler feed water cycle can actually pay for itself in less than 12 months–just in the fuel saved by increasing “cycles of concentration” in the boiler itself. [OK, I know, I am getting off track and into a realm of “water treatment” but bear with me–I am speaking from personal experience]. Think of “cycles of concentration” as being “recycling” energy and water.

    If anything can be proven to provide an acceptable ROI than it follows that “becoming more efficient” is the most important mission. (ROI is the encouraging investment money to corporations, and following this train of thought, saved energy means lower emission of pollution)

    This is the reason that I encourage our mission to be similar to the 60’s…. when people held science and engineering as the ways to a mean. There really is no short cut. You have to understand the method to avoid going down the wrong paths.