Peekaboo

Playing peekaboo is important to every infant’s cognitive development, specifically for developing the awareness called object permanence—the understanding that an object or person still exists even if you can’t see it. Babies master this perception between six and nine months of age, realizing that Mom’s face is hidden and not “gone,” at which point anxiety is replaced by anticipation and delight when the beloved face reappears. 

Developmental psychologists tell us that the lack of “object permanence” leads very young children to make “A-not-B errors”—they will keep looking under Box A for the attractive toy they’ve been shown hidden there, even after they have observed the researcher moving the toy to Box B. Up to the age of 12 months, they cling to their original choice even when they have been shown that the facts have changed, demonstrating that they have not yet developed the ability to evaluate and plan. Interestingly, some researchers found that having the babies stand up before choosing made it more likely that they would embrace their own observations and correctly locate the toy under Box B.

This past week we’ve been regaled with news of the planned elimination of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), along with deep cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Energy’s technology incubator Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and other agencies involved in monitoring climate change, planning for resiliency and developing innovative energy technology. Energy Innovation LLC, a California-based company, has developed a peer-reviewed open-source modeling tool that correlates data across sectors to estimate the costs and benefits of various energy policies. Their analysis of the potential effects of rolling back the CPP predicts $100 billion in extra costs by 2030, rising to $600 billion by 2050. With more coal, less wind and solar, and a dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon emissions over levels projected under the CPP, the resulting impacts to air quality will lead to more than 40,000 premature American deaths in 2030 and 120,000 in 2050. Emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent will increase by 500 million metric tons by 2030, and 1,200 million metric tons by 2050.

On the flip side, the Department of Energy’s second annual U.S. Energy and Employment Report, released in January, showed that the solar industry employed 374,807 workers in the electricity generation sector in 2016, compared to 187,117 from fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal combined). Wind generation saw a 32% growth in employment from 2015 to 2016, with 102,000 workers currently employed.

In this context, our government is playing a dangerous “A-not-B” shell game. We’re not infants—they can’t play peekaboo with climate change and make it “disappear” by defunding research. The consequences are known and they will be dire. Market forces already in play make it highly unlikely that we will roll back the inexorable march to more profitable, environmentally beneficial renewable energy generation. The harm is in delay. We all need to stand up and demand Box B.

 

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