Climate Change Choices: Difficult, Easy, or Erroneous?
Having waited too long to address reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is now forcing some difficult choices. In parts of the western U.S. the issue is whether to preserve groundwater for residents or allow its use for building solar power plants. In California, conservationists have sought protection for Joshua trees that may restrict land otherwise perfect for solar projects.
As Columbia law professor Michael Gerrard observes, We are now at a point where we have to swallow hard, put some of these wind and solar facilities in imperfect places, unfortunately kill some birds. Professor Gerrard describes the global dilemma perfectly; as the immediacy and urgency of climate change becomes increasingly apparent, some painful choices are no longer avoidable. However, some opposition to climate solutions framed as too costly or unnecessary is upon close examination not compelling or credible. Distinguishing the difficult choices from the false ones will be essential if climate action is to progress in time to avoid the worst.
Some choices are serious and difficult, others sadly a reflection of misinformation and ideology. A few of the more serious include:
· Many solar and wind projects are being opposed by local communities, environmentalists, and native tribes because the projects would be on land of historical or cultural significance. For example, in February, the National Congress of American Indians called for a moratorium on offshore wind projects to allow them more opportunity for participation in planning and permitting. In another instance, a large proposed wind project on federal land in Idaho is being challenged by Japanese Americans because of its proximity to a national historic site where their families were incarcerated in WWII. Yet another example: a transmission line to bring clean energy to California is being opposed by local residents because it would intrude on national monument land. Even remote areas like the Brooks Range in Alaska are not immune from such conflicts. A proposed mining venture to provide copper for wind turbines and batteries is opposed by environmentalists because it would require over 200 miles of roads crossing dozens of rivers and streams. The issue is not only happening in the U.S. as similar concerns have been raised by indigenous groups in Sweden and Norway.