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Anorak | Anatomy Of A Climate Change Story: It’s The Economics, Dummy

Anatomy Of A Climate Change Story: It’s The Economics, Dummy

by | 28th, September 2011

WE get endless stories about how we really can beat climate change. Easy peasy. There’s always a catch somewhere in them though: for it it were easy to beat climate change then there wouldn’t be a problem, would there? It would be easy peasy.

I think my favourite along these lines was one from Greenpeace which said we can do it all with renewables by 2030 or whenever. The bit that was buried down in the details was that we’d all have to use half the energy we do now: and if that were easy we’d all already be doing it as energy bills go up past £1,000 a year per household.

Here’s a little one from the last couple of days. The Low Carbon Kid (I know, I know, and he used to edit one of the government magazines on the subject) tells us that:

The technology needed to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 already exists, according to a joint statement by eleven of the world’s largest engineering organisations, including the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The problem lies with politicians and the consequent lack of legislation and finance needed to ramp up efforts.

Gosh do they say that? Well, actually, pretty much:

The technology needed to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 already exists, according to a joint statement by eleven of the world’s largest engineering organisations.

So I asked for a copy of that statement (not the press release for it) and got this. That’s what their PR office sent so I assume that is the statement.

And they most certainly do not claim that we’ve already got the technologies: for to do so would be a little odd.

Now in one sense we do already have the technologies. We’ve got solar cells (1950s I think?) fuel cells (1850s), windmills (12 th century for Western Europe) insulation (ever since wattle and daub really) and so on: we do have the basics of the technologies we need. What we don’t have are these technologies working at the prices and efficiencies we need. Which is exactly what the problem is: if solar power were cheaper than coal then we’d all already be using solar power. That it’s currently 4x more expensive (before subsidies) is why we don’t all already use it.

In this other much more important sense we don’t as yet have the technologies we need. We cannot, on the current renewables technologies, run an advanced industrial society. This is something of a blow to everyone to the right of the Green Party who doesn’t want to return to the days of wattle and daub.

And if you look at the actual statement from the engineers, you’ll see that they’re saying much the same thing. We need to keep developing and we’ll get there. As opposed to what the cheerleaders are saying which is that we’re already there which we ain’t.



Posted: 28th, September 2011 | In: Key Posts Comments (2) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink