Fast-track extinction: The rush to permit „green” energy

More than three hundred billion dollars is in the pipeline for alternative energy infrastructure, it is known A lot of land is requiredAmericans are now faced with the ecological reality of what industrial development means for their non-human companions trying to survive on America’s increasingly fragmented landscapes. A recent study An organization called Natureserve throws the matter into stark relief. „America’s biodiversity is in crisis,” it says, noting that 40% of America’s animals and 34% of its plants are headed for extinction. 41% of America’s ecosystems are „at risk of collapse.”

The main cause is „land conversion,” otherwise known as habitat destruction, which it describes as „a major contributor to an alarming number of species at risk.” This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Animals need homes, places to forage and migration routes. When we damage the land we damage it all, and many things die. A gradually warming atmosphere certainly doesn’t help, but that’s nothing compared to the direct effects of bulldozers and chainsaws. Species do not disappear mysteriously. We cover a few square acres or kilometers at a time, and the pace is increasing. CEO of NatureServe, Dr. Sean O’Brien describes his own organization’s report as „appalling”.

This is the context—collapsing ecosystems, disappearing species, and a regime that is virtually unsustainable—in which the US climate movement is pushing to „regulate” the environmental review process for what it calls „green” energy. And it’s not just in America. This cocktail of demolition, „green” development and the push for streamlined permitting is happening everywhere. It seems too late for EU countries. According to Reuters, EU energy ministers agreed in November 2022 to „emergency regulations aimed at accelerating wind and solar, while EU officials negotiate the broader measures laid out in the REPowerEU plan.” In terms of biodiversity, Europe fares worse than the US, which has long been in the „land conversion” business.

Bill McKibben tweeted last August that „permitting can build clean energy projects, not dirt,” setting a strange orientation for land: damaging land for fossil fuel infrastructure is bad, but, well, good, for „clean” energy infrastructure when the damage is done. The land itself? It disappears and is reduced to a factor in the global carbon calculation. And a lot of land is involved.

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Given so many variables, it’s difficult to put a firm number on all the acres of land available for development worldwide, but in 2019, Princeton University Net Zero America Report, which analyzes land needs for the lower 48 states of the United States. Depending on the extent of nuclear, biomass, carbon storage and land control, the United States predicts that reaching net zero by 2050 would require between .25 and 1.1 million square kilometers of land. Since this is a large range, to avoid hearing about numbers, let’s split it down the middle and call it 675,000 square kilometers.

With 675,000 square kilometers in the environment, America’s biodiversity crisis is currently driven by land Growth evenly around 6,100 sq km per annum. We must ask, how will ecosystems that cannot currently handle 6,100 km2 of land degradation per year cope with 675,000 km2 or 25,000 km2 over twenty-seven years, a fourfold acceleration? Already, without fast-tracking, even in a fraction of the proposed structure, it is causing ecological carnage. As Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director of the Center for Biological Diversity, says, „I’m a clinical nurse in a desert endangered species emergency room, and we’re in the middle of an outbreak of patients.”

This picture draws its own conclusion: Fast-tracking renewable infrastructure in America will fast-track our extinction crisis. I say this knowing that one of the goals of this technology is to prevent global warming, where everything cooks regardless of what we do to the land, and the purpose is a good idea. But it is crucial that we realize that what has brought the biosphere to this predicament is primarily our taking of land for human use. Will the patient recover enough to be saved by it? This is a fair question.

Another problem with allowing reform has to do with science. Although the „clean” energy narrative treats carbon emissions as the sole human cause of climate change, science is known Decades of land degradation drive climate change, interacting in different ways with water cycles, soil health, and plant cooling. That’s why the first one International Scientific Climate Reports, produced in 1970 by MIT and the Swedish Academy of Sciences, has an entire section devoted to „The Climatic Effects of Human-Made Surface Modification.” Decades of research have produced those results increasingly clear. When we damage land, we damage its ability to absorb/store moisture against cold weather, clouds, rain, moderate temperature extremes and floods and droughts. The result is higher temperatures, increased droughts and floods, and more climate extremes. Did you know?

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The reality is that our scientific understanding of climate is changing. Many scientists are dissatisfied with what is derided as a „CO2-only” view of climate. Broad coverage of water cycles and ecosystem processes In analysis. It depicts the Earth’s climate as more than a physical machine with a carbon dial. Rather, it is a complex, „biophysical” interconnected (living) system that science is only beginning to understand. Scientifically speaking, we need more research and study, not less.

Finally, has anyone thought about what fast-tracking industrial development on such a large scale would do to the environment? How can it maintain a moral sense of itself? Already deep-seated tensions will only increase as more and more local people, environmentalists and their landscapes come under threat. If they realize that those landscapes help cool and hydrate their local climates while withstanding drought and flood cycles, what’s to stop them from thinking that the whole story isn’t being told? If rapid surveillance weakens their efforts to protect their lands from destruction, why should they feel anything but betrayed?

Again, the purpose of this infrastructure is to reduce atmospheric carbon levels. I’m all for that, but when you add in the fact that damaging the land can also damage the climate, the formula gets a little muddy. Add the inevitable 10 to 20 year pulse of emissions This infrastructure needs to be manufactured, shipped and installed and the picture gets even muddier.

Only twice have we actually reduced carbon emissions, and those were periods of reduced economic activity, first the Great Recession and then Covid. Do you remember the brief window of ecological clarity that appeared in the early Covid days? The sky brightened. The birds chirped loudly. Animals came into our cities. Mountains clear of fog, and according to the UN, “The world has recorded record reductions in energy-related CO.2 emissions.” However, the climate system quickly told us there was nothing to see, a „Incessantly,” The recession “has a major impact on energy systems around the world, Limiting investments and threatening to slow expansion Major Clean Energy Technologies.”

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There are certainly better and worse ways to deploy this technology. Putting solar panels on rooftops is better than clearing forests for solar farms. The problem, however, is that clearing land for solar farms is far more profitable for energy companies than stretching them on rooftops or in parking lots, which we quickly lose the leverage needed to push. Development in that direction.

Republicans should be pinching themselves to see Democrats in the lead, as they have pushed for more than four decades of fast-tracking. We can guess that compromise is in progress. Republicans will give Democrats their support for renewables fast-tracking, allowing Democrats to fast-track certain amounts of petroleum. Fast tracking on both sides! It would be presented as a win-win for the climate and the economy, a positive example for both parties.

But forests, grasslands, grasslands and deserts and species facing a new wave of „land change” will pay a price. Helps maintain local climatic conditions.


Teaser Photo Credit: Power Station Glynn County, Georgia. Judd McCraney – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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