The Clean Power Plan will reduce USA greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity generation sector by 32% off of 2005 levels by 2030. This is about 800 million tonnes of CO2 gas.
Some people argue that 800 million tonnes is a small number, in the global context. Global CO2 emissions in 2013 were 34,082 million tonnes. 800 is a mere 2.3% of 34,082. There are those who argue that the Clean Power Plan will hurt the American economy and only reduce global emissions a tiny amount. Their conclusion is that it doesn’t make sense for the USA to reduce pollution such as small amount, because the global effect will be slight.
This is an old argument and it’s long been recognized as a way of thinking that leads to collective destruction. It leads to what is called “the tragedy of the commons.” Consider a common resource that is owned by no one, but which everyone can use. It is completely logical (from an individual point of view) for each person to exploit that resource as much as possible believing that, if I don’t use it, someone else will. But what makes perfect sense from an individual perspective, ends up harming everyone. This kind of thinking has led to over grazing, over fishing, and, now, the changing of the Earth’s climate.
800 million tonnes of CO2 is a significant number. It’s more than the entire yearly emissions of Germany, the world’s 3rd largest economy. Moreover, there are many European countries that are taking extraordinary steps to reduce their emissions, and at high cost to residents and tax payers. If the logic of individual thinking has weight in the USA, which is the 2nd largest polluter, how much more compelling should that logic be in smaller countries? And if those smaller countries don’t act, and we don’t act, we are surely on the path of global tragedy.
It is important we don’t let the logic of individual thinking shape how we make national or state environmental and energy policy.
Academic West at Western Washington University will be a hub for learning about the progress Germany has made with renewable energy beginning on April 20, 2015.
“RENEWABLES: Made in Germany” is a 26-poster display detailing the innovative renewable energy practices Germany has used over the past decade. The WWU Institute for Energy Studies will be hosting the display in Academic West beginning on April 20, 2015 until May 7, 2015. An opening reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. April 24.
The full-color posters are on loan from the Consulate General of Germany. Information on solar, hydro, wind, geothermal, bioenergy and renewable energy in buildings and remote areas will be on the displays.
Faculty from the Institute for Energy Studies will be at the opening reception to discuss modern renewable energy technologies, and explain the new courses and degrees in energy that will be coming to Western next fall. The Institute now offers a Bachelors in Arts in Energy Policy and Management, minors in Energy Science and Energy Policy, and an energy concentration in electrical engineering.
directs research at the Energy Trans Lab