Technological Innovation and Climate Change

Most discussion of technology with regards to climate change focuses either on energy efficiency or green energy generation. Given that the next 10-15 years is going to be a time of dramatic technological change, perhaps we should expand our focus a bit.

Improvements in software have now laid the groundwork for expanded use of machinery, principally robots, drones and driverless cars. It seems clear that there will be very large numbers of them deployed throughout the world in the coming decades. Deployment is already being led by military applications. Typically that transitions into police and other first responder organizations and then into commercial application and finally home use.


Many of these new machines will replace humans, which is already worrying many. I personally will welcome the arrival of our new Robotic Blogging Overlords… But many of these machines will be doing things that humans cannot or will not do.

This means that these technologies will spur energy consumption. If these technologies innovate and spread as quickly as other recent technological advances there may be tens of millions of each of them by 2050. That’s actually a sizable amount of energy. when Google driverless gyrobikes are bringing your groceries to your door while sushi comes to your window via a drone, it will all take power. When community service has to be redefined because robots are picking up the trash along the county highway, the robots will be using power.

This is likely to provide added impetus to research in improved batteries, which is all to the good. However it should sharpen our gaze on the fuel portfolio for generating electricity. We’re going to need more energy than people think.

As these are only three of the next generation of coming ‘gadgets’ I think it is safe to assume that we will need a lot more energy than people think. The last generation of innovation has been purposefully invisible–your computers, televisions and mobile phones are better by far, but they’re pretty much still the same shape and size, coming in the same boxes.

The next generation of technological change will be very different.

5 responses to “Technological Innovation and Climate Change

  1. Tom, you know I’ve threatened to give up on this site several times and I have also encouraged you to start blogging again. I admire your energy and you put together a lot of useful stuff.
    But I really don’t get where this is going. What’s the Lukewarmer message? “We have to distance ourselves from the lunatic alarmists, but be alarmed enough that we are ready to commit massive amounts of money at nuclear and willing to commit untold damage to our water for shale gas?”
    There are many religions out there passing themselves off as science. AGW was a valid hypothesis which morphed into a religion. We can see it when others do it. But it’s time to look at the other religions. When you are ready to admit that “nuclear” and “the market” also have irrational followers, we might get somewhere. The response of the true believers to Fukushyma is comparable to the cat ate my global warming response.
    Look at the comments you received at the early Liberal Skeptic or even the young Lukewarmer. You got a broad cross section and comments worth reading. You’ve lost that audience.

    • Hi Marty,

      I appreciate your support and criticism as well. I do look at earlier versions of what I wrote–in part so I don’t repeat myself. Yes, a lot of commenters have moved on. Sadly, I don’t see most of them commenting anywhere else. There’s a new generation of commenters on climate sites and the old timers have settled into their favorite blogs. Matt Ridley doesn’t comment here anymore–but I don’t see him commenting anywhere else. Same is true for Robert Grumbine.

      As for the message, your version may end up being what I have to offer. We do have to distance ourselves from the lunatic alarmists. We should be alarmed enough to commit to alternatives to coal. I hope I have something more to say, but I don’t know.

      Traffic is up here but commenting is down. I presume that’s partly because the alarmists have embargoed comments on sites such as this, but can’t resist peeking. I don’t know.

    • Fukushima- a terrible, preventable and limited disaster.
      Nuclear Power- properly and effectively harnessed the best power source on Earth.
      Fracking- the “untold” part of the risks of fracking to water are because no credible studies have found any damages to tell about it.
      Plate Tectonics- supported by the geology, the geophysics, the physics and the laws of thermodynamics.

  2. Pingback: One Technological Innovation With The Potential To Reduce Energy Consumption | The Lukewarmer's Way

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