By Amitabh Pal on May 12, 2011

It’s official: The world can easily make the switch to renewable energy if it wants to.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released a report stating that energy from clean sources could account for four-fifths of the global supply within a few decades—if governments show the necessary will.

Far from being a wild-eyed organization the way right-wingers portray it to be, the IPCC is actually a very cautious institution that works through the consensus of its 194-member countries. The report’s summary had to be agreed on unanimously, word by word, line by line, The Guardian reports.

"The report shows that it is not the availability of [renewable] resources but the public policies that will either expand or constrain renewable energy development over the coming decades,” said Ramon Pichs, co-chair of one of the working groups of the organization.

There’s some really promising data in here. For instance, almost half of new capacity added to the electrical grid in 2008 and 2009 came from renewable sources. And to reach the target that the IPCC deems doable would cost a negligible 1 percent of the global GDP each year.

The report is a vindication of what many environmentalists have been claiming all along: that the transition to a clean energy future is not only desirable, but also extremely feasible. Nation columnist Mark Hertsgaard (whose new book is reviewed in the June issue of The Progressive) has been saying this for years.

“The way to start, I believe, is for the United States to launch a Global Green Deal: a program to retrofit civilization environmentally from top to bottom--and in the process create the biggest jobs and business stimulus program of our time,” Hertsgaard wrote for The Nation back in 2000. “Making use of both market incentives and government leadership, a Global Green Deal would do for environmental technologies in the twenty-first century what government and industry have done so well for computer and Internet technologies at the end of the twentieth: launch their commercial takeoff.”

And veteran nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman has been urging a green energy economy for decades.

“When the No Nukes movement first started, it was hoped by many that solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biomass, increased efficiency, and other renewable technologies would ‘someday’ be cheaper than nuclear power and fossil fuels,” Wasserman writes in the May issue of The Progressive. “By all accounts, that day has come.”

Sadly, the United States has been lagging in its efforts.

“The U.S. has lost a lot of time—the world has lost a lot of time—in moving from fossil fuels to alternatives,” Rajendra Pachauri, the head of IPCC, told me in December 2008. “We need to make up for that lost time.”

Since then, the Obama administration’s record has been mixed, even if an improvement over its predecessor.

“There are reasons to be concerned about America’s competitive position in the clean energy marketplace,” says a Pew March 2010 report. “In all, ten G-20 members devoted a greater percentage of gross domestic product to clean energy than the United States in 2009. Finally, the United States is on the verge of losing its leadership position in installed renewable energy capacity, with China surging in the last several years to a virtual tie.”

We have to hugely invest in clean energy—starting now.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "We Should Learn from the Germans on Nuclear Power."

Follow Amitabh Pal @amitpal on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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