July 11, 2013

Everything is Connected (Collapse in Progress Edition)

Sometimes there isn't much to say except, "Look at this."

Case in point: the New York Times article this morning on a new report from the US Department of Energy. The report describes the disruptions climate change will cause in the nation's energy system, and therefore in the lives of its citizens.

The article speaks for itself. Here are excerpts from the first few paragraphs:
The nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy to be published on Thursday.

The blackouts and other energy disruptions of Hurricane Sandy were just a foretaste, the report says. Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts...

“We don’t have a robust energy system, and the costs are significant,” said Jonathan Pershing, the deputy assistant secretary of energy for climate change policy and technology, who oversaw production of the report. “The cost today is measured in the billions. Over the coming decades, it will be in the trillions. You can’t just put your head in the sand anymore.”

Interestingly, the Department of Energy is more willing to confront the implications of climate change than the American Society of Civil Engineers, whose 2013 report card on the nation's crumbling infrastructure somehow fails to mention that climate change will substantially increase the problems it describes. (For details, see my previous post.) If roads, bridges, tunnels, levees, and mass transit are already unstable, imagine what a good push from climate change will do. 

The Department of Energy's report connects the dots. Increasingly severe droughts, for example, will substantially reduce the water needed to produce hydroelectric powerat the same time that demand for air conditioning will increase. Already, low water levels in the nation's major waterways are interrupting commercial shipping, including the transport of oil and coal supplies. And as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, major storms will flood not only neighborhoods, but refineries, ports, and rail yards, even as high winds bring electrical power to its knees.

According to the Times, the new report provides no specific recommendations for immediate action, "much of which would be the responsibility of the companies that produce and transport all forms of energy."

If true, that's scary. It means the nation's future is in the hands of a bunch of corporations whose primary interest is in short-term profits, rather than in long-term investment, or the public welfare. 

"Everything is Connected" is a recurring feature named in honor of the late Barry Commoner's four laws of ecology: Everything is connected to everything else, everything must go somewhere, nature knows best, and there is no such thing as a free lunch.  

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