One of my favorite rants concerns the pessimism of most environmentalists. It’s probably a pointless rant, both because one cannot control whether one is an optimist or a pessimist and because very few people, and almost none of the environmentalists I know, will ever admit to being a pessimist. Nonetheless, it’s a real issue, because the point of the Cassandra myth wasn’t just that she could predict the future, but that she was cursed never to be believed. I am firmly convinced that environmentalists’ pessimism is self-fulfilling, because it is part of the reason why they are often ignored.
In any case, this story from yesterday’s ClimateWire reminded me why I’m an optimist. It may perhaps be four years’ exposure to engineers at MIT – and engineers are as much Pollyannas as environmentalists are Cassandras – but I believe that solutions will be found. It seems almost incomprehensible that CO2 could be turned into fuel, but, lo and behold, MIT engineers have done it.
I want to be clear. I don’t view this technology as the solution to climate change. It won’t be, even if it works. The point is that something will be the solution and it’s almost certainly a technology that people aren’t even envisioning today.
I also want to make clear that we do have a severe problem on our hands, and the sooner we solve it, the better. Not only that, but we’re going to solve it much faster if government spends money on basic research and if the right market-based controls (yes, I’m referring to a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program) are in place to create incentives to turn research discoveries such as this into technologies that will work in the marketplace.
Call me Pollyanna, but I still think it’s going to happen.