Friday, October 16, 2015

Climate whiplash

Why Winning the War on Climate Change Will Require a Technocratic Revolution - The Atlantic

If you ask me, there is a bit of a problem going on with "climate whiplash" at the moment.

On the one hand, you have a series of relatively optimist papers and reports about the rapid drop in price of renewables and the great potential for affordable battery storage to make it even more attractive; on the other hand you have stories like this one about how really, really hard the problem of a rapid reduction in global CO2 is.

Apart from the story linked above, here's Kevin Anderson being a pessimist, too:
The world’s top climate scientists are deliberately downplaying the challenge of avoiding warming above the 2C danger zone because of pressure from funders and politicians.

That’s the view of Kevin Anderson, professor of climate change at University of Manchester, in an article published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Wednesday.

He argues the rapid level of greenhouse gas cuts required to ensure the world does not blow what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) termed a “carbon budget” would mean a radical shift in consumption and energy use in rich countries.

“Delivering on such a 2C emission pathway cannot be reconciled with the repeated and
high-level claims that in transitioning to a low-carbon energy system global economic growth would not be strongly affected,” he says.

But instead of warning governments that they need to implement an energy revolution, Anderson argues many influential scientists continue to suggest warming above 2C can be avoided through a steady transition away from fossil fuels.

“We simply are not prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly,” he writes.
While Anderson may have a point to a degree, the real problem with too much pessimism is that it encourages the fools who have never wanted to do anything anyway, and may increase the political power they already richly do not deserve.

And I also suspect that the pessimists underestimate the power of  markets to make rapid changes if they have the right combination of market signals and regulation.   By being too pessimistic, they are not encouraging  the badly needed price signal.

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