Climate change may be the most wicked problem the world has ever faced, encompassing many complex and intersecting issues such as land use, economic development, and energy access. Yet for too long the policy response has been to treat the climate as a conventional problem to be solved by conventional solutions such as carbon taxes and international treaties.
The wicked nature of climate change helps explain why people disagree so vehemently about whether the problem exists and how to address it. The extreme polarization on this issue has led to a standstill and an inability to look past preferred solutions to come up with ideas that are both politically feasible and capable of actually solving the problem.
Access to modern energy services highly correlates with human development. Energy is critical for everything people need to live healthy, fulfilling lives: clean water, health care, education, livelihood, shelter, transportation, communications, and more.
While we are in favor of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro, we reject the environmental orthodoxy that climate change can be solved through renewables alone, particularly as global energy demand is poised to triple over the next century. We support continued energy innovation, and work to create openness to a wider array of clean energy technologies, such as nuclear power and carbon capture, that can be deployed at the scale necessary to reduce global greenhouse emissions and provide energy access to people in the developing world who strive for the same energy-rich lives that we enjoy in the west. Including a broader set of clean energy technologies in the policy toolkit can also help create common ground and reduce political polarization on climate change.
Conservation is deeply intertwined with climate and energy issues. We not only aspire to a world in which energy is clean, cheap, and abundant; we seek to enable this reality without using up the earth’s resources, which will require employing dense forms of energy. This is one reason that relying on renewables alone to solve climate change would be problematic: scaling wind and solar requires massive amounts of land, while hydro has obvious implications for waterways.
We believe that preserving the earth will require more than just restricting access to natural spaces. Conservation necessitates technological innovation, urbanization, and other key elements of modernization that make human societies less dependent on nature.
© 2014 Pritzker Innovation Fund, Inc.