For some, the New Year’s Resolution is a catalyst for life-changing action; for others, it is an exercise in futility. Whatever the outcome, though, we understand that goal setting is the critical first step toward problem solving. While we still have much to learn about what ails our planet, we do maintain a wealth of knowledge about both the challenges we face and some strategies for altering our course. What follows is a list of attainable goals for 2013 that would leave Earth and its inhabitants a little better off.
Derive 75% of all newly installed electricity generation in the US from renewables.
This target may sound unrealistic, and indeed it is lofty. Although the numbers are big, however, they’re quite attainable, and this kind of development is critical if we’re serious about addressing climate change and other energy issues. Through the first 10 months of 2012, renewables accounted for 46% of the 15.1 GW of new generating capacity. We’ve already surpassed the 75% target from renewables over smaller timescales – in September, 100% of newly installed capacity came from wind and solar projects. In 2012, installations of new wind power capacity alone are expected to total over 13 GW. Unfortunately, we’re looking at the possibility of 2013 being the worst year for renewables in a long time, due to the impending expiration of the Production Tax Credit as well as other cuts associated with the “fiscal cliff.”
Continue to provide government support for sensible clean tech projects.
As we discussed briefly in two previous posts (here and here), the Production Tax Credit is one of the government’s greatest gifts to renewable energy. It’s critical to encouraging development, and the current iteration of the PTC expires at the end of the year. The uncertainty about its future has for years scared off investors and threatened the renewable energy industry as a whole, hitting wind energy particularly hard. With the PTC’s renewal as uncertain as ever, renewable energy companies across the country are racing the get their projects online before the ball drops in Times Square (it’s unclear if time zone differences will be taken into account). Rather than scaring the industry into cardiac arrest every few years, we would do well to pass a longer-term deal that delivers reasonable certainty.
Tied up in the “fiscal cliff” debate is the future of funding for research and development in a range of clean tech sectors. Beyond simply avoiding cuts to existing programs, however, we need to ensure a deeper commitment to investing in promising ideas that aren’t ripe for private investment. (Military-driven) government support is how GPS and the Internet came to be, and public funding has already been integral to making numerous “clean” technologies competitive.
Restore science and reason to their rightful place above passions and politics.
Comparing climate scientists to terrorists doesn’t help anyone, and neither does the incessant vilification of “the other guys.” It took over 1,000 years for people worldwide to accept that the earth was spherical, but unfortunately the challenges we face today don’t allow that kind of time. The scientific method has taken us to incredible places since “flat earthers” became a minority, but it seems that we have forgotten its virtues. Scientific facts aren’t dependent upon our acceptance of them – the ways we respond to these realities, however, are. So let’s pledge to make decisions based on facts and to debate how to solve our problems, not whether to address them at all.
Focus less on winning and more on achieving.
This one applies across the board. With respect to clean tech, our obsession with competition is hindering our ability to have honest discussions about the issues that threaten our future and to take advantage of solutions that offer a different course. Those who would rather tear something down than build something great have for too long put artificial limits on our efforts to ensure a healthy planet for our children. The world won’t long remember the fleeting nature of these senseless roadblocks, but it will reflect the impacts of inaction long after today’s “winners” are forgotten.