I ran across two interesting comments in the blogworld yesterday in response to the new McKinsey report on U.S. greenhouse emissions opportunities. The report lays out a lot of enticing cost-benefit analyses of various greenhouse gas emissions options throughout the U.S. economy.
The first came from Grist commenter Sean Casten:
I agree – great message, but it hugely understates the potential to increase generation efficiency. Maybe that’s just because they didn’t know to look for it, but I get nervous by any report sponsored by a bunch of utilities (National Grid and DTE were listed among their sponsors). But this is nitpicky – overall, great report.
The second came from veteran science journalist Charles Petit, on the Knight Science Journalism blog:
Better attention to efficiency and smart investment in renewables, etc., could trim up to 28 percent of the nation’s greenhouse emissions with little upfront cost and a fast, quickly profitable payback. This is not news to people at, say, such national labs as Oak Ridge, Berkeley, Livermore, etc. who have been cranking out fruitless and similar studies for years. Maybe these biz suits will give such findings more street cred.
I think Petit gets it precisely right and Casten gets it precisely wrong.
Different people with different interests, beliefs, values and viewpoints will have different views of the definition of the climate problem, the energy system, and the costs and benefits of various approaches to dealing with it. That’s one consequence of climate change being a wicked problem. What’s increasingly interesting to me is not what any one player views as “the correct” solution to the problem, but rather what is the solution space that can draw sufficient support from those with those different interests, beliefs, values and viewpoints to actually happen.
In that regard, Casten is wrong to be suspicious that energy companies were involved in the preparation of the McKinsey report. He should rather embrace it. It doesn’t mean he has to agree with the answers they came up with, but the fact that he seems to like the report despite their involvements means he ought to embrace their participation. Any solution space that doesn’t include those interests is likely doomed to failure.