I'm frequently discouraged by the level of debate on climate from some corners of our democracy. Snowballs on the senate floor come to mind. It is even more disturbing when some of our most thoughtful scientists and policy makers treat some decisions as black and white. I see this in at least three current areas of debate in energy: centralized versus decentralized electricity beyond the grid, deployment versus innovation, and renewable versus nuclear energy.

This pursuit of a false dichotomy raises up among energy transition proponents and delays or obscures the more meaningful parts of the debate. In each of these cases, it would be more productive to debate the relative contributions of each of these technologies or ideas to a portfolio of solutions and when and where they are best deployed.

To tackle our energy and climate challenges and redesign our energy system, we must be willing to challenge our most deeply held beliefs when we are presented with new evidence. Energy analysts must be ruthless in their pursuit of evidence supporting positions and policies. When we distort our arguments of another position, it suggests an adherence to ideology that is antithetical to this dispassionate search for solutions.

I don't claim to be immune to this tendency but I follow two rules to help avoid it. First, I assume that folks have largely similar goals. We want to protect the climate and human health, spend money wisely, and avoid undesirable side effects. Focusing instead on differences can make common ground harder to find. Second, I do my best to interpret a position I disagree with as rational and work to understand their argument. It is likely to be productive to evaluate evidence that conflicts with my prior beliefs.

Related Articles