“The Third Industrial Revolution” has a much-needed educative value in equipping us to survive in a world of climate change. This book is a “must read” for those wanting to understand climate change, climate maintenance and their role in keeping a livable planet. Author Jeremy Rifkin is superb in presenting the case for global cooperation and is fully qualified to deal with the various sciences involved. I bought his first book (“Entropy: A New World View”) in 1980 and still refer to it for information about science.
To set this whole topic in historical context, we need to be reminded of the two earlier industrial revolutions and the huge social changes ushered in by each economic upheaval. The first industrial revolution began with the increased use of new machines from the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries. Rifkin places the second industrial revolution between 1900 and 2008, a period when there was a deep economic dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. We are now in the early stages of the third industrial revolution, in which there will be a gradual transition to solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass (trash) sources of energy. This transition, however painful, is imperative if life on this planet is to be sustainable.
United Nations Climate Report: Scientists have reported an expectation of a rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius in the temperature of the earth by the end of this century. Such an event “could lead to a mass extinction of plant and animal life in less than 100 years.”
At this point, we must pause to deal with the integrity of scientists, science on the theoretical level and the methods used. It is no secret that the United States is unique in its lack of confidence in all of the foregoing features. Only on the practical results level is there respect. This situation is due to the influence of religious fundamentalism and is a mistaken enterprise. The base on which science rests is epistemologically superior in practice and results than that grounded on revelatory claims.
Rifkin then shares what he calls the “Five Pillars Of The Third Industrial Revolution.” Simplified, they come down to the goals or vision that should govern the shift to the emerging “green” industrial era. He is well aware, as he meets with world leaders, that proposing new economic concepts and practices generates huge tensions. That is why these huge changes are called “revolutions.”
A look at one “green” economy change will be enough to show the dramatic shift from fossil fuels to “green” energy. The plan to build an offshore wind farm along a 350-mile stretch from Norfolk, Va., to northern New Jersey might seem innovative, but would you want a wind farm where you used to go on vacation?
A Stanford University study of the potential productivity avers that the use of only 20 percent of the available wind on this planet could provide seven times more electricity than the world now uses. This might seem great until we contemplate how many huge windmills we will have to accept. It will not induce the same joy as the scenes of windmills we see on the farms as we drive. On the other hand, we must remember that the first two revolutions took place in earlier ages when there was little concern over human spoilage of the planet. The Third Industrial Revolution is a necessity.
At this point in time, we have models to assess the validity of “going green.” The leadership of Rome, for example, have agreed to showcase the new biosphere concept to revitalize their environment by adopting a 40-year master plan to transition from a Second Industrial Revolution city dominated by fossil fuels to a Third Industrial Revolution city. Using locally generated, renewable energy, a “smart” power grid will serve a wide region.
We have been warned by competent scientists that we must reduce the present level of CO2 (385 ppm) to 350 ppm. We ignore this at our peril. It is imperative that we are informed and intelligent about climate change.
Allan Powell is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College.