The message of the day seems to be Get real: Reversing, stopping or even just slowing climate change is going to take a little more effort than some newcomers to the problem hoped.
Kicking it off was the report one week ago that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 grew 35% faster than expected since 2000. Climate trackers at the University of East Anglia estimate that Earth’s plants and oceans scrubbed 18% less CO2 from the air, largely due to stronger winds in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean that bring deep CO2 up and thus prevent more CO2 from being absorbed. Greater than expected CO2 releases from the boom in coal-fired power generation and a dearth of technological advances contributed the balance of the CO2 speed-up.
I’m throwing a little more warm water on our melting optimism today with a story on the newly relaunched web portal MSN Green. “Does Daylight Saving Time Really Save Money?” is really an accounting of the energy savings Congress promised when it extended DST by three weeks in March and one week in the fall (this week in fact). When Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, it predicted that springing forward earlier and falling back later would trim the use of lighting, saving the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil per day. Extending DST probably did just the opposite, boosting energy use by giving us all more time to consume.
The shortfall is grave given that extended DST was one of the only energy efficiency measures in the 2005 law, which focused mostly on boosting fossil fuel production and nuclear power. Remember Vice President Dick Cheney’s famous comment dissing energy efficiency as a “lifestyle choice”? Well, Congress went along for the ride.
The take home message is not that a smarter, climate-friendly energy system is impossible. Rather, we need to get beyond hopeful quick fixes such as DST and begin implement the real solutions that those East Anglia researchers found to be under-exploited — from true energy efficiency measures such as hybrid vehicles to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and even smarter use of fossil fuels whereby CO2 is captured and stored away underground. Let’s get real.