Maxwell Boykoff, assistant professor at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder, gives a trenchant critique of the Obama administration’s strategy to address climate change solely in terms of clean energy:
A recent Brown University study looked specifically at the Obama administration’s language and found that mentions of “climate change” have been replaced by calls for “clean energy” and “energy independence.” Graciela Kincaid, a co-author of the study, wrote: “The phrases ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ have become all but taboo on Capitol Hill. These terms are stunningly absent from the political arena.”…
But what do we lose when global warming and climate change get repackaged as clean energy? We wind up missing a thorough understanding of the breadth of the problem and the range of possible solutions.
To start, talking only about clean energy omits critical biological and physical factors that contribute to the warming climate. “Clean energy” doesn’t call to mind the ways we use the land and how the environment is changing. Where in the term is the notion of the climate pollution that results from clear-cutting Amazon rain forests? What about methane release in the Arctic, where global warming is exposing new areas of soil in the permafrost?
“Clean energy” also neatly bypasses any idea that we might need to curb our consumption. If the energy is clean, after all, why worry about how much we’re using — or how unequal the access to energy sources might be?