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Published on November 20th, 2009 | by Scott Cooney

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Paul Hawken on Being a 'Doomer'

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November 20th, 2009 by
 
During yesterday’s Sustainable Industries Economic Forum, keynote speaker Paul Hawken suggested that it will take a somewhat monumental effort to get back to 350 ppm in our atmosphere (we’re at 387 right now). His list was daunting.  We’d need one new olympic sized pool of bioalgae fuel production every second for 25 years, for example.  He said that while being a ‘doomer’ has a negative connotation, the facts are the facts, and that there is a role for this kind of startling statistic.  An audience member asked the question that was on all our minds:  “It seems untenable.  Do you have hope that this can actually happen?”

The old Ford plant in Richmond, CA, is a good example of how we can mobilize when needed.  It switched from building cars to building tanks in no time flat when WWII broke out.  When it was shut down as a manufacturing plant, it was then reengineered to create local manufacturing of eco-friendly goods.

In fact, if we were to mobilize on a concerted effort, our power and capability would likely surprise even the skeptics among us.  If, for example, we took all the energy used to create newspapers in the world and used it instead to create solar panels, we could get it all done in 11 days.  Of course, there’s the issue of ingredients of the solar panels, and logistics of their distribution and installation, but it serves as just an example of how quickly we can make change when we want to.

What is happening, he said, is extraordinary.  So many people are getting on board with sustainability so quickly.  “We’re moving in that direction and the momentum is growing and likely to be unstoppable,” said Hawken (paraphrased).

One of the panelists at the Economic Forum, however, took issue with this answer.  “Crisis leads to change,” said Matt Cheney, CEO of Renewable Ventures.  “Yes, that part is true.  But there is a disconnect between this optimism in our community and what’s actually happening in Washington.  When it comes to energy security, which is comparable to our national security, our Department of Defense probably has plans to invade every country in the world, probably even Canada, to help secure our energy future.  However, our Department of Energy is lacking a plan to implement wide-scale change that everyone knows we need in terms of energy efficiency.”

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill)

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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on



  • Charles Vismeg

    Too bad that those links that “Here’s something actually worth reporting” said are no longer available on the web (Code 404). The’ve been possibly removed for whatever reason. AGW deniers will find comfort in the alleged “leaked” info, but those of us who accept the findings that humans at least DO CONTRIBUTE to climate change, will be unmoved. Regardless of climate status, fossil fuel has limited availability. Developing efficient and cost effective new energy sources now will prevent shortages later.

  • James

    Reality cares not what we deny. The earth has limited resources and that will be the truth in the end.

  • James

    Reality cares not what we deny. The earth has limited resources and that will be the truth in the end.

  • James

    Reality cares not what we deny. The earth has limited resources and that will be the truth in the end.

  • Charles Vismeg

    Too bad that those links that “Here’s something actually worth reporting” said are no longer available on the web (Code 404). The’ve been possibly removed for whatever reason. AGW deniers will find comfort in the alleged “leaked” info, but those of us who accept the findings that humans at least DO CONTRIBUTE to climate change, will be unmoved. Regardless of climate status, fossil fuel has limited availability. Developing efficient and cost effective new energy sources now will prevent shortages later.

  • Dave B

    I do this kind of stuff (not with climate data, but with other noisy data sources). Everything in those emails indicates they were smoothing noise.

    The summaries are worse than the actual emails, because folks who don’t really understand what they’re saying or doing try to interpret (and fail).

    I think most who work in an academic setting will agree.in my personal work, i use low-pass filters. probably not what they use (i have a much higher sampling rate than they do). when they talk about making peaks go away or performing “tricks”, they’re talking about doing things to make their data prettier – smoothing is a normal and natural way to get long-term trends.

    The idea of uncertainty is what really keeps biting scientists in the ass. Acknowledging and quantifying uncertainty is a great virtue in science from a scientific standpoint, but in certain fields there are politically motivated idiots who’ll jump on that like a pack of rabid wolves.

    If someone says he’s uncertain whether one of Darwin’s finches evolved from one ancestor or another, and he’s not careful with his wording, he could easily end up with a National Review headline blaring “SCIENTIST X SAYS DARWIN WAS WRONG” with an article saying he implicitly admitted that the Earth is 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church.

    Climate scientists are in that same boat. Thank goodness I work in a relatively uncontroversial field…

  • Dave B

    I do this kind of stuff (not with climate data, but with other noisy data sources). Everything in those emails indicates they were smoothing noise.

    The summaries are worse than the actual emails, because folks who don’t really understand what they’re saying or doing try to interpret (and fail).

    I think most who work in an academic setting will agree.in my personal work, i use low-pass filters. probably not what they use (i have a much higher sampling rate than they do). when they talk about making peaks go away or performing “tricks”, they’re talking about doing things to make their data prettier – smoothing is a normal and natural way to get long-term trends.

    The idea of uncertainty is what really keeps biting scientists in the ass. Acknowledging and quantifying uncertainty is a great virtue in science from a scientific standpoint, but in certain fields there are politically motivated idiots who’ll jump on that like a pack of rabid wolves.

    If someone says he’s uncertain whether one of Darwin’s finches evolved from one ancestor or another, and he’s not careful with his wording, he could easily end up with a National Review headline blaring “SCIENTIST X SAYS DARWIN WAS WRONG” with an article saying he implicitly admitted that the Earth is 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church.

    Climate scientists are in that same boat. Thank goodness I work in a relatively uncontroversial field…

  • Dave B

    I do this kind of stuff (not with climate data, but with other noisy data sources). Everything in those emails indicates they were smoothing noise.

    The summaries are worse than the actual emails, because folks who don’t really understand what they’re saying or doing try to interpret (and fail).

    I think most who work in an academic setting will agree.in my personal work, i use low-pass filters. probably not what they use (i have a much higher sampling rate than they do). when they talk about making peaks go away or performing “tricks”, they’re talking about doing things to make their data prettier – smoothing is a normal and natural way to get long-term trends.

    The idea of uncertainty is what really keeps biting scientists in the ass. Acknowledging and quantifying uncertainty is a great virtue in science from a scientific standpoint, but in certain fields there are politically motivated idiots who’ll jump on that like a pack of rabid wolves.

    If someone says he’s uncertain whether one of Darwin’s finches evolved from one ancestor or another, and he’s not careful with his wording, he could easily end up with a National Review headline blaring “SCIENTIST X SAYS DARWIN WAS WRONG” with an article saying he implicitly admitted that the Earth is 6,000 years old and Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church.

    Climate scientists are in that same boat. Thank goodness I work in a relatively uncontroversial field…

  • Here’s something actually worth reporting

    Hackers target leading climate research unit

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci…..370282.stm

    A bunch of hackers managed to grab a whole bunch of documents from some very important science research concerning global warming.

    Good thing these are professional scientists, there’s no way you’d find blatant attempts to falsify data for funding, especially on such an important topic like global warming. They should have nothing to hide.

    No wait, actually they did.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/n…..l-warming/

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heral…..ey_hacked/

    You can find the documents here:

    http://thepiratebay.org/torren…..009.zip%29

    or

    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Clim….._1996-2009

    Here’s a picture I took of a random email. It doesn’t get more plain as day that this is not science, but rather politics.

    http://img263.imageshack.us/im…..efraud.png

    One comment in the bbc report really made me laugh.

    “There are passionate opinions on both sides of the climate debate and there will be people trying to knock down the other side,” Mr Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, told BBC News.

    “If they feel that they can gather inside information on what the other side is up to, then they may feel that is ammunition for their counterargument.”

    Well shoot, here I thought science was supposed to be transparent to everybody, and subject to rigorous peer review. But I guess we can’t have other learn our dirty little secrets now can we?

  • Here’s something actually wort

    Hackers target leading climate research unit

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci…..370282.stm

    A bunch of hackers managed to grab a whole bunch of documents from some very important science research concerning global warming.

    Good thing these are professional scientists, there’s no way you’d find blatant attempts to falsify data for funding, especially on such an important topic like global warming. They should have nothing to hide.

    No wait, actually they did.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/n…..l-warming/

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heral…..ey_hacked/

    You can find the documents here:

    http://thepiratebay.org/torren…..009.zip%29

    or

    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Clim….._1996-2009

    Here’s a picture I took of a random email. It doesn’t get more plain as day that this is not science, but rather politics.

    http://img263.imageshack.us/im…..efraud.png

    One comment in the bbc report really made me laugh.

    “There are passionate opinions on both sides of the climate debate and there will be people trying to knock down the other side,” Mr Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, told BBC News.

    “If they feel that they can gather inside information on what the other side is up to, then they may feel that is ammunition for their counterargument.”

    Well shoot, here I thought science was supposed to be transparent to everybody, and subject to rigorous peer review. But I guess we can’t have other learn our dirty little secrets now can we?

  • Yaos

    It’s a good thing he has a book he wants to sell so more people know about this! Oh wait a second.

  • Yaos

    It’s a good thing he has a book he wants to sell so more people know about this! Oh wait a second.

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