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Climate Change

Wood Mackenzie Report Claims World Will Still Get 85% Of Its Energy From Fossil Fuels In 2040

Wood Mackenzie says the switch to renewable energy is going just fine, but decarbonizing other sectors is painfully slow. Its latest report says at the current rate, 85% of the energy used by civilization in 2040 will still come from burning fossil fuels.

NS Energy Business says a new report from Wood Mackenzie has a somber message when it comes to the transition to renewable energy — by 2040 the global community will still get 85% of the energy it consumes in all sectors from burning fossil fuels.

Renewable energy accounts for 8% of global electricity today and that figure is predicted to triple by 2040. But at the same time, economic and population growth in developing countries is expected to increase the demand for energy in all sectors by 25%. If Wood Mackenzie’s forecast is accurate, the likelihood of average global temperatures remaining less than 2º C above pre-Industrial Revolution levels is virtually nonexistent.

David Brown, one of the study’s authors, says, “The world risks relying on fossil fuels for decades to come. This is a wake-up call for governments and the energy industry. If the world wants to decarbonize, they need to take a leap, and come up with targeted policies.”

The issue is not the generation of electricity. The move toward zero carbon in the utility industry is advancing well and will continue so long as solar and wind plus storage are significantly cheaper than making electricity by burning coal, oil, or gas. It’s other industries like heating and cooling buildings, shipping, air travel, cement production, and transportation that are not moving fast enough to embrace low or zero carbon technology.

One factor that could accelerate the decarbonization of those sectors is moving some of the money currently targeted for direct fossil fuel subsidies — almost $400 billion worldwide — to subsidies for renewables and other low carbon techniques.

Richard Bridle, a senior policy advisor at the International Institute of Sustainable Development, says, “Often fossil fuel subsidies are inefficient, costly to governments and undermine clean alternatives. All countries should be looking to identify where swaps [from fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy spending] can kickstart their clean energy transitions. Public money is far better spent delivering the clean energy transition than propping up the fossil fuel industry.”

Another effective strategy would be making those who emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere pay a fee for the harm they cause. After all, isn’t that only fair? Why should industries be allowed to escape paying for proper disposal of their waste products? Is it because of all the employment opportunities they offer?

That makes sense on the surface of things but is totally false when subjected to deeper analysis. First, industries won’t cease to exist if they are required to pay for the harm they do. Second, clean technologies promise to create more jobs than will be lost if a carbon fee became widespread. Third, there will be no industries if most humans and the other species on the Earth are wiped out by rising temperatures.

So let’s stop feeling bad for polluters. It’s time to put people first, not those who use the Earth as a communal toilet. Anything else is just self-serving blather by those who believe they have a God given right to pollute. That kind of twisted thinking is one of the central tenets of the weaponized version of capitalism popular today, especially at the highest levels of the US government.

It’s time to change our thinking and stop apologizing for wanting to keep global temperatures from skyrocketing. We have a right to demand a clean environment, one that allows humans and all species to thrive. What could possibly be objectionable about that?


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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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