Instead of an arms race or a space race, what we need is a race on Earth – a competition of superpowers over which country will rise the fastest and furthest to enable a world without carbon emissions, so that men and women here can thrive on Earth. I’d like to see Biden make a real shot at Xi and Putin in his Glasgow speech before that race.
Biden might say, “I know that climate change is a global problem and that if we purify our air and you don’t clean yours, there’s no way to fix it. But we’re not going to use that as an excuse, or let our oil and coal industry use that as an excuse, not to do anything until you do. Because there are 7.9 billion people on the planet today and by 2030 there will be 600 million more – 600 million more! That means, climate change or no climate change, just having so many more people to feed, house and transport will ensure that clean power, clean water and energy-efficient buildings and cars will be the next big global industry. Otherwise we will all suffocate in pollution. So if you all want to keep burning coal and give our clean industries a five-year head start in the next big global industry, then make my day. I myself am going to announce America’s intention to win the race on Earth, to make America the first country to invent and adopt the cleanest energy technologies and drive them down so that everyone on the planet can afford them.”
Challenge China and Russia on who can produce the most tools for the world resistance, not only resistance, is a way for America to reclaim moral leadership on the global stage and focus our economy and our competitors on the most important industries of the future. Unless we humans want to be a bad biological experiment, a zero-carbon grid, zero-emission transportation, zero-carbon/zero net energy buildings, and zero-waste manufacturing will indeed be – and should be – the next major global industry.
And by the way, although Russia is not currently a player in that league, I wouldn’t bet against China.
Hal Harvey, who runs the climate analytics firm Energy Innovation and advises governments on the clean energy transition, notes that the United States has set a very clear goal: when it wants to achieve a zero-carbon economy: By 2050 – and Biden is now trying to fill in the details with specific plans. Unfortunately, without any support from Republicans.
China, on the other hand, Harvey added, is building incredibly detailed decarbonisation plans, which Beijing could scale very quickly — but it’s been less detailed in setting hard dates for implementation.
As Xi is currently focused on growing the Chinese economy as he attempts to secure his third term as president, he will do nothing to curb growth in China in a way that could undermine his popularity. So China will continue to burn a lot of coal for a while yet. But don’t be fooled: Beijing also builds huge amounts of solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear power. It’s game on.