With emissions from natural gas expected to rise — the inevitable result of the shale gas boom — and coal emissions experiencing only a modest decline (some of which is offset by rising U.S. exports of coal to be burned elsewhere), total domestic carbon emissions from energy use in 2040 are still predicted to be a devastating 6% higher than they are today. Can there be any question at this point of how this will help ensure the sorts of predicted global temperature increases, with all the ensuing side effects, that every expert knows will be devastating to the planet?
At a national level, such a situation — knowing one thing and doing something else — can only be described as some form of mass delusion or a collective version of schizophrenia. In one part of our collective brain, we are aware that petroleum use must decline sharply to prevent the sorts of global catastrophes that we are only used to seeing in science fiction movies; in another, we retain our affection for driving and gasoline use without giving much thought to the consequences. We have a global warming president presiding over a massive expansion of fossil fuel production. Think of this as a form of collective mental compartmentalization that should frighten us all — and yet from the president on down, it’s remarkable how few seem disturbed by it.
Obviously, this is an unsustainable condition. Eventually, excessive petroleum use will produce such frequent and severe climate effects that no president or energy executive would dare boast of increased petroleum output and none of us would even dream of filling up the gas tank to take a “day-cation” at a distant tourist site. Until we identify and begin treating this state of national schizophrenia, however, we will ensure that a time of mutual pain and hardship is ever more likely.
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Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of “Resource Wars,” “Blood and Oil,” and “Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy.”