By Larry Kummer. From the Fabius Maximus website.
Summary: A solid leftist writing at a well-known leftist publication has declared an end to the planetary climate emergency! Solar and wind are replacing fossil fuels at an astonishing pace, sooner even than optimists expected when James Hansen began the climate crusade in 1988. This is good news to start the New Year. If others follow his lead, we can more easily turn the public policy debate to more serious issues.
An “admission against interest” is the legal term, broadly speaking, for a statement admissible because it is made by someone with knowledge of the subject and is against that person’s own interests.
— the only question is how bad it will be“
“Trump’s economic policies are built on many flawed assumptions, especially a fossil-fuel boom that won’t end well.”
By Paul Rosenberg at Salon, 2 January 2017.
Let’s go directly to the money paragraphs that give us the good news, notable because it is made by a leftist against one of their major campaigns of the past two decades.
“The carbon bubble does exactly the same thing. It’s not just fossil fuel reserves that are overvalued by the bubble, but everything associated with the sector — pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. …
“The carbon bubble risk is only made worse by the fact that renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, and become increasingly competitive. Thus, even if those reserves were not unburnable because of their potential impact on climate change, they will become so for economic reasons in the next few decades. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recently released “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors” reported:
‘[T]he unsubsidized, levellized cost of electricity (LCOE) for utility scale solar photovoltaic, which was highly uncompetitive only five years ago, has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate, making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries. By 2020, solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.’
“Add to this the fact that renewable energy — particularly solar and wind — is a new technology sector, in which large efficiency gains are to be expected. That’s quite unlike the fossil fuel industry, whose costs are increasing because the cheap, easy-to-get fuel has already been burned. By 2030, renewables could well leave fossil fuels in the dust. …
“Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.”
This is the good news of the decade (even if bad news for fossil fuel investors)! For a decade climate activists have warned about the coming apocalypse from RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s AR5 report (often misrepresented as “business as usual” despite its unlikely assumptions). Almost all the articles you have read about the horrific effects of climate change assume the RCP8.5 scenario.
To learn about this possible future see “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011. It describes a hot dirty 21st century, in which coal use increases 5-fold to become the world’s major source of power (it’s a back to the 19thC future) — with the steepest increase coming after 2030. This graph shows energy use by fuel in 2100 for each of the four scenarios in AR5.
Figure 5 from Riahi et al: “Development of global primary energy supply in RCP8.5 (left-hand panel) and global primary energy supply in 2100 in the associated mitigation cases stabilizing radiative forcing at levels of 6, 4.5, and 2.6 W/m2 (right-hand bars).” Click to enlarge.
Rosenberg’s prediction makes sense, which is why so many people have said it is likely. (Climate activists’ rebuttal to mention of likely tech progress during the 21st C was to scream “denier!”). Coal production probably has already peaked. Fossil fuel use peaking in 2030 (followed by a slow decline as power infrastructure is replaced) plus continued technological progress would put us on track to reach the emission levels of RCP2.6 (the most favorable of the four scenarios) by the late 21st century.
For details about these futures turn to “The representative concentration pathways: an overview” by Detlef P. van Vuuren et al, Climatic Change, Nov 2011. See the large difference between annual emissions in the low- and high-end scenarios. They are world-changing differences.
Green: RCP2.6, Red: RCP4.5, Black: RCP6.0, Blue: RCP8.5.
Does Rosenberg’s article show a shifting of priorities by the Left? Yesterday climate change was our greatest threat, warranting spending trillions of dollars — or even making drastic revisions to our economic system (as urged by Naomi Klein and Pope Francis). Today their top priority is opposing all things Trump.
Rosenberg’s prediction negates the nightmares that climate activists have bombarded us with during the past decade. If correct, then seas will not cover cities by 2100 (although the seas will continue their millennia-long rise). Agriculture will not crash. The tropics will remain habitable.
But CO2 will continue to warm the world — and contribute to our always changing climate — for several more decades, although I doubt models can accurately predict the magnitude of this effect. Combine this with the environmental damage from a population growing to ten billion (perhaps 12B) and the pollution from a more crowded and industrialized world: the result is tough times ahead. But we can work through it.
Look ahead to the second half of the 21st century. Combine a shrinking population, falling CO2 emissions, and better technology — we could repair the damage and make this world into a garden.
This is good news to start the New Year!
For More Information
For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about the politics of climate change…