The Economist: “Hug Pylons, Not Trees” to Prevent Climate Catastrophe

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From Watts Up With That?

wind turbine wilderness devastation. Source ABC, Fair Use, Low Resolution Image to Identify the Subject.

Essay by Eric Worrall

The Economist setting forth a nightmare vision of saving the world by paving over the wilderness.

The case for an environmentalism that builds

Economic growth should help, not hinder, the fight against climate change

The sheer majesty of a five-megawatt wind turbine, its central support the height of a skyscraper, its airliner-wingspan rotors tilling the sky, is hard to deny. The solid-state remorselessness with which a field of solar panels sucks up sunshine offers less obvious inspiration, but can still stir awe in the aficionado. With the addition of some sheep safely grazing such a sight might even pass for pastoral. The sagging wires held aloft by charmless, skeletal pylons along which the electricity from such installations gets to the people who use it, by contrast, are for the most part truly unlovely. But loved they must be.

If the world’s climate is to be stabilised, stopping electricity generation from producing fossil-fuel-derived emissions is crucial. So is greatly increasing the amount of electricity available. With more generating capacity, it will be possible to power motor vehicles and warm homes with electricity, rather than by burning dirty fuels. Expanding access to power for people in the poorest countries will reduce emissions from biomass burning and greatly improve living standards. More copious and reliable electricity will be needed for effective adaptation, too. If heatwaves are not to become ever more lethal, grids in developing countries will have to reliably power wider use of air conditioning in energy-hungry cities.

If those plans are to work, and to do so legitimately, there also needs to be less objection to building in the first place. That would make timid politicians more comfortable with legislation designed to streamline things; it would hasten the arrival of essential new capacity; and, by reducing uncertainty, it would lower the cost of capital.

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Instead of carpeting the entire world with mechanical monstrosities, how about using small footprint nuclear power stations, which can supply endless zero carbon power without clear felling the entire wilderness and peppering it with concrete and steel monstrosities?

But the urban “greens” who articulate their visions of covering the wilderness with power pylons and turbines as far as the eye also tend to be the people who reject low footprint zero carbon energy solutions. We can only speculate why.