Watts UP With That? (Anthony Watts) / Bjørn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg: No, renewables are not taking over the world
We're constantly being told how renewables are close to taking over
We're told they are so cheap they'll undercut fossil fuels and reign
supreme pretty soon.
That would be nice.
If they were cheaper, they could cut our soaring electricity bills.
With cheap and abundant power, they would push development for the
And it would, of course, fix climate change.
Unfortunately, it is also mostly an illusion.
This short video shows you why renewables are not likely to take over
the world anytime soon.
It is also crucial for us to know.
The misapprehension that renewables are just about to take over makes
many believe that we have all the technologies needed to go to zero
That we just need more political will.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
Jim Hansen, Al Gore's climate advisor and the scientist who literally
started the global warming worry in 1988 puts it clearly:
"Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels
in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost
the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy."
To fix climate change, we need to stop believing in the Easter Bunny and
that without much better, cheaper, green technology,
we won't transition away from fossil fuels.
That's why we need to invest a lot more into green energy R&D.
If we can help innovate green energy to become cheaper and better than
fossil fuels, *everyone* will switch.
Not just rich, well-meaning first-worlders, but also China, India and
The video shows how we've spent the last two centuries getting *off*
In 1800, most energy came from our own back-breaking work, along with
wood (for fire) and draught animals.
Wind and water contributed in most places a tiny fraction.
The 6% fossil fuel was almost entirely England starting up the industrial
revolution with coal.
What made us rich over the next two centuries, was cheap and plentiful
energy, almost exclusively from fossil fuels.
It made it possible for us to have machines do much more of the hard work.
By the end of the nineteenth century human labor made up 94 percent of
all industrial work in the US.
Today, it constitutes just 8 percent.
For the past half century,
renewable energy has hovered around 13-14%,
most of it wood burning in the world's poorest regions (leading to the
world's leading environmental killer, indoor air pollution).
The International Energy Agency estimates that if *everyone* live up to
their Paris promises (and other promises), we'll get to 20% in 2040.
Since almost no-one is actually performing on their Paris promises,
the business-as-usual scenario of 16.5% is more likely.
The UN's Climate Panel has devised 5 main scenarios (the SSPs),
showcasing development over the rest of the century.
Even the greenest scenario, the SSP1, will by the end of the century
just get 45% of its energy from renewables.
The UN scenarios are without explicit climate policies, but the stories
of SSP1 is centered around environmental focus:
"The world shifts gradually, but pervasively, toward a more sustainable
path, emphasizing more inclusive development that respects perceived
Management of the global commons slowly improves, educational and
health investments accelerate the demographic transition, and the
emphasis on economic growth shifts toward a broader emphasis on human
Driven by an increasing commitment to achieving development goals,
inequality is reduced both across and within countries.
Consumption is oriented toward low material growth and lower resource
and energy intensity."
To give you a sense of this: the SSP1 expects that by 2100, the average
rich person in the world will have to get by on *half* the energy
we have today (and this is final energy, not TPES).
The average person in the developing world, while getting more energy
than today will have to live with never getting to half on what the
average rich person gets today.
This is a scenario with little development, populated by very modest
people and overall a very unrealistic world.