Most of the time when I talk about the environment and climate change, it's bad news. But here's some stuff which gives me hope that we can get out of this mess:
Firstly, from Salon, an article pointing out that energy efficiency is a lot cheaper and easier than people think it is, and that the gains are not one-off. The short version:
Economic models greatly overestimate the cost of carbon mitigation because economists simply don't believe that the economy has lots of high-return energy-efficiency opportunities. In their theory, the economy is always operating near efficiency. Reality is very different than economic models.Unfortunately, the chance of economists abandoning or qualifying that prior assumption that the status quo is perfect is about zero, despite the fact that it is demonstrably wrong. Which pretty much shoots down any claim they have to being a science.
Meanwhile, according to the Independent, scientists have discovered a new catalyst which finally makes it worthwhile to crack water into hydrogen with small-scale solar power. Which means we now have the technology to ease that natural variability and shift to clean distributed generation (at least in those parts of the world which get a worthwhile amount of sunlight). It can obviously be used on a larger scale with wind turbines to ease wind variability, which gives us another important part of a renewable technological base.
Finally, Sapphire Energy seems to be doing well at turning algae into crude oil, which can then be refined into ordinary gasoline. It's a biofuel, which sidesteps all the usual problems - competition with food crops and not being able to be used in older cars - while allowing us to continue to use existing technologies for creating plastics etc. Now all they need is a way to grow the algae efficiently - something a lot of other people are wanting as well.