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Not that he is alone in this, but he did make it rather glaringly obvious in his NYT column this morning.
The column is on CCS, and in particular the new Summit energy plant outside Odessa, the Texas Clean Energy Project. Like Mr Nocera, I quite like the TCEP. Unlike Mr Nocera, I don’t think that in and of itself it provides a reason for thinking that CCS is going to be a big part of emissions reduction.
That, though, was not the part of the article which stood out. The part which stood out was:
A reduction of carbon emissions from Chinese power plants would do far more to help reverse climate change than — dare I say it? — blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
For some people the naffness of that “dare I say it” will be the unacceptable part of that sentence, and for others it will indeed be the slight on the importance of the issue that a great many American greens seem to have decided is the most important battle to be fighting. To me, though, the problem is that Mr Nocera seems to believe that reducing emissions would mean reversing climate change. It wouldn’t. Emissions increase the carbon dioxide level. Higher carbon dioxide levels lead to more warming (people of good will, and others, can disagree about how much more). Reduce emissions appreciably and you slow the rise in the carbon dioxide level, which should reduce the rate of warming. But to reverse climate change you have to either bring the carbon dioxide level down or cut the amount of sunlight warming the earth in the first place. If you don’t understand the difference between reducing and reversing I don’t think you should be writing about this subject. Or for that matter driving a car.
The main point of Mr Nocera’s column seems to be to pick a fight with Bill McKibben. Fair enough. I have wanted to do so, on different grounds, many times. Who knows — maybe one day I will. But when I do I will try and show a slightly better grasp of the basics.
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