Somewhat encouraging environmental report

A real if inglorious fact about environmental and climate-change issues is that people can stand to read only so much depressing news. Especially when the rest of their life is depressing enough. The economy's falling apart, half the people I know are losing houses or jobs, so what do I feel like doing at 10pm: pick up a thriller / turn on a comedy, or read further details about how the polar bears are drowning and the forests are dying and we're all doomed anyway?

And imagine if the election results had gone the other way.

So it's worth highlighting every bit of information that gives a believable (not flat-earthish or denialist) reason to think that sensible actions, taken in time, can make a significant difference. This was one of the virtues of my friend Gregg Easterbrook's 1995 book A Moment on the Earth, feather-ruffling as it was at the time. This has also been a consistent strategy of Amory Lovins' work at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

In a similar vein, I highly recommend this new report from the American Physical Society, the professional organization for physicists in the United States, about the very specific hows, whats, wheres, and how-much's of practical ways to increase energy efficiency. A cover letter says (emphasis added by me):

Can lower energy consumption come about in the United States? It already has. Per-capita energy use in California, about half the national average, has stayed flat for the past 30 years, largely through an ambitious program of appliance standards and other innovations in building design....

The report points out that the enhanced funding need only match federal energy research levels in place in 1980. Research around that time led to a major improvement in efficiency standards. For instance, compact fluorescent lights and refrigerators now use about one-fourth the energy needed for comparable models of 30 years ago. Air conditioners are twice as efficient as those in 1980. Such dramatic improvements in energy use could be sustained, many experts argue, but only if a concerted energy research program is put in place.

I assume the Relevant Government Officials are well aware of such data -- at least ones from the incoming administration -- but it doesn't  hurt to have the general public know too. (Thanks to UCSB physicist / Cirrus pilot Roger Freedman.)