Optimism and Climate Change

I ran across an old TrueReddit thread about climate change, specifically in response to this new york magazine article about the future of the earth.

I liked this comment:

I live down in the Arizona desert. I think solar is going to save the day. I’m an accountant and have run the numbers. Even without subsidies, solar keeps making more and more and more sense.

People usually act with their economic interests. I know hardcore Republicans who think that climate change is mostly bullshit. However, they do like solar because it is quickly becoming the cheapest source of electricity. They like that they own the means of production and they like being independent of the utility companies, which they generally hate.

It’s a case of people doing the right thing for not necessarily the right reason. Which is why I’m not in full-on panic mode about climate change. I think there will be enough economic incentives to reduce emissions that it won’t be much of a problem in 10-15 years.

I also think it’s very wrong to pitch this in terms of a moral argument. Because moral arguments almost never work. Those become political and people tune out. You always have to make an argument in economic terms. Leave the morality and politics out.
Solar is becoming an extremely easy argument to make. The government absolutely should subsidize solar and local government should get the fuck out of the way. Make permitting free and accelerate it so people can quickly get panels up. Offer free classes for a free certification or license to install solar. There are a lot of things like this.

I think battery technology is going to make electric cars very practical soon. Battery technology is being pushed hard by tech companies – they all want the best batteries for phones and computers. That will scale to cars. When you can eliminate your gasoline bill and use the solar panels you installed that are the cheapest form of electricity, it’s over for gasoline.

This problem is going to fix itself and I see the change underway. I’m a bit older than most on Reddit. I remember when I carried an extra dime whenever I left the house so I could use a pay phone if I needed to. It wasn’t that long ago. Today, I am not even sure where I could find a pay phone in town. I don’t even remember the last time I used a pay phone.

Not too long from now, you will be telling young people about how you had to take your car in for oil changes and how you used to pump gas into it that was stored in big underground tanks.

Just like how there used to be horse manure all over the city and dead horses were left to rot in the street. That was a problem. Lighting your house at night involved whale oil, kerosene or natural gas. Electricity was new and possibly dangerous. People didn’t think electricity was as safe as a house plumbed with gas lines. Some builders installed combination light fixtures that were both electric and plumbed for gas, since they didn’t know if electricty was just a passing fad.

Again, that wasn’t that long ago. Times change. Things are changing radically right now. It can be hard to see when you’re in the middle of rapid change, but it is happening. I keep thinking about that dime I used to carry.