Guest essay by Eric Worrall
David Attenborough and a group of other prominent people, have called for a publicly funded $15 billion / year research programme over 10 years, an international “Apollo” project, to make renewables economically viable.
We, the undersigned, believe that global warming can be addressed without adding significant economic costs or burdening taxpayers with more debt. A sensible approach to tackling climate change will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world.
The aspiration of the Global Apollo Programme is to make renewable energy cheaper than coal within 10 years. We urge the leading nations of the world to commit to this positive, practical initiative by the Paris climate conference in December.
The plan requires leading governments to invest a total of $15bn a year in research, development and demonstration of clean energy. That compares to the $100bn currently invested in defence research and development globally each year.
Public investment now will save governments huge sums in the future. What is more, a coordinated R&D plan can help bring energy bills down for billions of consumers. Renewable energy gets less than 2% of publicly funded R&D. The private sector spends relatively small sums on clean energy research and development.
Just as with the Apollo space missions of the 1960s, great scientific minds must now be assembled to find a solution to one of the biggest challenges we face.
Please support the Global Apollo Programme – the world’s 10-year plan for cheaper, cleaner energy.
Professor Brian Cox
Paul Polman CEO, Unilever
Arunabha Ghosh CEO, Council on Energy Environment and Water
Ed Davey Former UK energy secretary
Nicholas Stern IG Patel professor of economics and government, LSE
Bill Hare Founder and CEO, Climate Analytics
Nilesh Y Jadhav Programme director, Energy Research Institute @NTU, Singapore
Niall Dunne Chief sustainability officer, BT
Carlo Carraro Director, International Centre for Climate Governance
Professor Brian Hoskins Chair, Grantham Institute
Mark Kenber CEO, The Climate Group
Ben Goldsmith Founder, Menhaden Capital
Sabina Ratti Executive director, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM)
John Browne Chairman, L1 Energy
Zac Goldsmith MP
Professor Martin Siegert Co-director, Grantham Institute
Professor Joanna Haigh Co-director, Grantham Institute, and vice-president of Royal Meteorological Society
Peter Bakker President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Dr Fatima Denton African Climate Policy Centre
Denys Shortt CEO, DCS Group
Adair Turner Former chairman, Financial Services Authority
Gus O’Donnell Former cabinet secretary
Richard Layard London School of Economics
Professor John Shepherd
Martin Rees Astronomer royal
Having said that, $150 billion seems an awfully high price to pay for speculative research, given there are already other options.
If CO2 is an urgent issue, we should be building nuclear reactors, not delaying action by 10 years in the slim hope of a major breakthrough in renewables technology. A few years ago, former NASA GISS Director James Hansen published an open letter demanding that greens embrace nuclear power.
If nuclear fission is unacceptable for whatever reason, what about nuclear fusion? The ITER project is a serious international effort to explore the viability of nuclear fusion. $150 billion would dramatically accelerate the pace of Nuclear Fusion research. If the ITER project succeeds, it could open the way to limitless non-polluting energy. Unlike Attenborough’s renewables dream, hopes for an ITER breakthrough are based on known physics. Fusion plasmas are not self sustaining because they lose heat too quickly. The rationale behind the ITER project is based on simple geometry. The hope that by building a really big plasma, they can take advantage of the improved volume to surface area ratio, to slow heat loss enough that the fusion reaction becomes self sustaining.
And of course, we would have to think about what opportunities we would miss, personal and public, by spending so much tax money on energy research. For example, a mere fraction of $150 billion could buy an awful lot of clean water and medical care for the world’s poor people – but somehow poor people always seem to end up down the bottom of the list of priorities.