Now, doggone it, Lord Ridley–your ninth test for the validation of policies to combat climate change stumbled upon an area in which I actually claim to know a bit of the current state of the art (See here, here and here).
So when you write:
“Indeed I will need persuading that dashing to renewables can cut
emissions rather than make them worse; this is by no means certain given
that the increased use of bioenergy, such as wood or corn ethanol,
driven by climate policies, is indeed making them worse.
Meanwhile shale gas use in the USA has led to a far greater cut in emissions than any other technology, yet it is opposed every step of the way by climate
I call foul. Fortunately, if this is a teachable moment I can actually persuade you that renewables can cut emissions. But first I need to correct some of what you write.
And it isn’t even a correction, which makes me even more frustrated with you. The increased use of bioenergy has been a policy mistake and, while it hasn’t increased emissions much if at all, it hasn’t helped. Our current best efforts in bioenergy have not been good enough and we should in all probability cease subsidizing ethanol in the U.S. and let Brazil use their sugar cane for it instead.
But bioenergy is the least of all renewables and focusing on it and biomass and wood is artful misleading by omission and I expect a helluva lot better from the author of The Rational Optimist. If you want to talk renewables you will have to bring your A game, not a few snide sentences accompanied by a chart.
Usually I have this fight with the most alarmed of activists who point at the paltry production of their favorite renewables and use it as an excuse to advocate either draconian caps on emissions or some well-hidden scheme to retard energy consumption in the developing world. I never thought I would see this argument coming from you–and you put it under the Lukewarming label?
You are arguing that we should throw out the baby because of lack of economic productivity.
Of those 523 quads, 52 were produced by renewable energy. Of those 52 renewable quads, 50 were produced by hydroelectric power. Renewable energy is new and is not more than an asterisk in global totals.
However, renewable energy is growing at the same rate and for the same reasons as computer processing power did starting 40 years ago–incremental improvements throughout the logistical supply chain from production to distribution to installation. The two current champions, solar and wind, are making giant strides.
Here’s a look at solar:
And here’s a look at wind:
Here’s a look at hydroelectric power:
Hydroelectric power is the workhorse and solar and wind are the up and coming sources of renewable power. (I wish we could have a sane discussion about nuclear power, cogenerated power and waste-to-energy, but not today.) We can leave aside for now the local solutions of geothermal, the not-yet-ready for primetime wave power and solar powered satellites.
These three will generate a significant portion of the world’s power. They will reduce emissions.
And it won’t show up in the tables because energy demand is growing so fast–something you surely know. It’s quite possible that power from renewables will double by 2050 and yet fall as a percentage of the total, simply because demand is growing so quickly.
But dismissing renewables because bioenergy hasn’t worked out is like saying man will never fly because of early failed experiments. You’re better than that, Lord Ridley. You need to show it.