May 12, 2005

How Big Is Connecticut?

[vaguely political stuff moved under the jump to make room for the philosophy/linguistics post just below]

In the third part of her New Yorker "Climate of Man" series--unfortunately not online, and my paper copy isn't hear--Elizabeth Kolbert talks about the prospects for cutting fossil fuel consumption by using solar power. She arrives at the sobering conclusion that, in order to cut consumption by a certain amount, we'd need solar panels covering a land mass the size of Connecticut.

At least, it's supposed to be sobering--and if you're in New York City, that seems like a huge amount of land. But look at the US. Connecticut--that's the pink one just above NYC (which NOAA seems to think is on Long Island, but never mind)--is not very big as the country goes. In particular, I understand that there's a lot of fairly uninhabited land in Texas, say between San Antonio and El Paso. I know there's a lot of fairly uninhabited land in western Nebraska, because I've driven across it. You could fit a few Connecticuts in there. And both places are flat, and Texas at least gets a lot of sunshine.

I'm not saying it would be easy to set up huge solar farms here--people own the land and would need to be bought out, probably. But, if we're faced with something as grave as the threat of global warming, we may need to do something drastic. A big government-led program to increase solar energy doesn't seem ridiculous. And I just don't see the argument that there's not enough land. Maybe Europe doesn't have enough land, but the U.S. has quite a lot of land that is underutilized. (And developing the land into solar farms could lead to jobs for the people living there; I'm not trying to be completely callous about the red states.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at May 12, 2005 12:35 PM

Well, we seem to be perfectly happy to drill for oil on government land. I don't see why we can't put up solar panels. But I'm not, like, holding my breath.

Posted by: bitchphd at May 12, 2005 12:40 PM

But Matt, there's no such thing as global warming!

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 12, 2005 01:45 PM

NTM, fossil fuels will last literally forever.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 12, 2005 01:45 PM

I had thought of bringing up the sheer epistemic irresponsibility of the government officials in the linked article. They feel free to ignore the consensus of all scientists--why?--because they don't want what the scientists think to be true. This is like a philosophical worst-case scenario come to life. Also, given a problem that has a non-trivial chance of destroying human civilization if left unchecked, it's about as vicious as you can get.

Also, I think the latest talking points are that the greenhouse effect is the only think saving us from a new ice age. (But this May contain actual facts!)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at May 12, 2005 01:53 PM

Er, when I say "linked," I mean "not linked, because it isn't online." Go read it, anyway, and see if you don't want to kick a hole in something.

Posted by: Matt W at May 12, 2005 01:55 PM

We're so fucked.

Posted by: bitchphd at May 12, 2005 04:03 PM