We’ve been hearing for years that solving climate change will call for a mobilization on the scale of the Second World War.
Or that decarbonizing energy by mid-century will mean reducing fossil demand at the same pace it increased in the post-war period. (h/t to The Energy Mix subscriber Ralph Torrie for that line of thought)
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Now, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is out with an analysis that looks at the mix of new technology and widespread public commitment that was essential to the last war effort, and might be just as important to this one.
“Replacing fossil fuels with low-carbon energy sources should be a no-brainer. (Although one political party appears to have lost its collective mind when it comes to global warming.)” writes Contributing Editor Dawn Stover. “But if climate change is a war, Americans should fight it with everything we’ve got. World War II wasn’t won with technology alone; it also required sacrifices and hard work by millions of people. The same will be needed to win World War III.”
Stover looks back on the public messaging of the 1940s, quoting posters that urged civilians to carpool, save energy, conserve materials, pay closer attention to their food consumption, and fund the war effort. “Hitler rides in the empty seat…double up!” read one carpooling poster. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do!” urged another, part of a campaign in which “citizens were asked to collect scrap rubber and metal for the war effort. Textiles and shoes were rationed. There was a new simplicity in clothing, and nylon was used for parachutes rather than stockings.”
That doesn’t mean personal actions and choices will be enough to win the “climate war”, she writes. “The vast majority of U.S. energy consumption is not by individuals in their homes and cars, but rather by the commercial, industrial, agricultural, and government (particularly military) sectors. The idea that ‘big factories’ are the solution to climate change seems patently absurd, unless by this we mean that big factories are where radical transformations—not just solar panels—must be made.”
But by the same token, “we’re kidding ourselves if we think it won’t require sacrifices, including some as difficult as those made by the Native Americans, farmers, and ranchers who had to give up their homes to make way for the Hanford Site and other Manhattan Project facilities. And we’re underestimating the climate threat if we think it can be fixed without addressing sensitive issues such as meat eating, air travel, and continued population growth.”
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