Here comes the sun: 100% renewables by 2050

Is a fully sustainable global energy system possible by 2050? It’s hard to imagine a more important question if we entertain hopes of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. It is the question addressed by a new and substantial report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the sustainable energy research and consultancy company Ecofys.

The answer to the question is a careful yes, with a caveat. The Ecofys team writes:

“We have found that an (almost) fully sustainable energy supply is technically and economically feasible, given ambitious but realistic growth rates of renewable energy sources.

“However, the path to this future world will deviate significantly from ‘business as usual’ and a few (difficult) choices will need to be made on the way.”

The report does not see a future or a need for nuclear generation, and nuclear power does not figure as part of the sustainable energy system envisaged.

The report is divided into two parts. The first is WWF’s take on the Ecofys investigation, and a useful presentation of its major points for the general reader. The second contains the more detailed research of the Ecofys team.  They provide a scenario, which is not advanced by WWF as the only way forward but as a clear indication that the goal is feasible.

The single most important element in the Ecofys scenario is increased efficiency in the use of energy. They assess global energy demand in 2050 15 per cent lower than in 2005, by contrast with ‘business-as-usual’ projections which predict energy demand will at least double. The reduction in the scenario is not achieved by reduction in activity but from using energy as efficiently as possible. There are no surprises in the areas in which efficiency can operate to greatly reduce energy demand. Recycling in manufacture is one. Using recovered aluminium, for example, cuts total energy use by more than two-thirds. Product design is another: cars and appliances offer big opportunities for much improved efficiency. Improvements in small-scale cooking devices in the developing world can add up to significant reduction in energy demand. There is already the architectural expertise to create buildings that require almost no conventional energy for heating or cooling, and the scenario assumes this as the standard by 2030. Retrofitting existing buildings will achieve big reductions if it is undertaken systematically between now and 2050. It would mean retrofitting 2-3 per cent of floor area every year, an ambitious target, but one which Germany has already achieved. More fuel-efficient transport and expanded use of buses, trams, trains and bikes can result in major reductions in energy use.

Energy conservation must be built into every stage of product design, including a ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy where all of a product’s components can be reused or recycled once it reaches the end of its life.

Better energy efficiency clearly implies appropriate regulatory action from governments. Legally binding minimum efficiency standards worldwide are needed for all products that consume energy, including buildings. Energy conservation must be built into every stage of product design, including a ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy where all of a product’s components can be reused or recycled once it reaches the end of its life. Strict energy efficiency criteria should result in new buildings which aim at near-zero energy use, and ambitious retrofitting should be planned and provided with incentives. Energy taxation can be used to steer demand towards efficient products. Developing countries must phase out the inefficient use of traditional biomass and pursue the alternatives; industrialised countries can help them in this process. Substantial investment is needed into public transport, particularly rail powered by electricity.

Efficiency is coupled with electrification. As far as possible the scenario uses electrical energy rather than solid and liquid fuels. Electricity from renewable sources, for example, will power our cars and trains. Currently, electricity makes up less than one-fifth of our total final energy demand. Under the Ecofys scenario by 2050 it will account for almost half.  Wind, solar, biomass, and hydro power are the main sources of electricity, with solar and geothermal sources providing a large share of heat for buildings and industry.

Solar energy to provide electricity and heat is practically unlimited. To date it is hardly tapped, contributing only about 0.02 per cent of our total energy supply. But the proportion is growing fast and the Ecofys scenario has it providing around half of our total electricity, half of our building heating and 15 per cent of our industrial heat and fuel by 2050. The annual growth rate required to reach this is much lower than the one currently sustained year on year. Solar power can create electricity directly through photovoltaic cells, which have the advantage of being able to be integrated into devices and buildings, or it can be concentrated with the resulting heat used to generate electricity. Variability is a problem, but energy storage is improving particularly through concentrating solar power systems where design stage systems can now store up to 15 hours for electricity generation. Combining solar electricity with other renewable electricity sources is another way of addressing variability. Apart from electricity direct heat from the sun can also be employed. Solar thermal collectors can be widely used to for hot water. Direct sunshine combined with improved insulation and window architecture can be used to heat buildings.

Wind power currently supplies around 2 per cent of global electricity demand. An additional 1,000,000 onshore and 100,000 offshore wind turbines would meet a quarter of the world’s electricity needs by 2050.  Geothermal electric capacity is growing and the Ecofys analysis suggests this could reasonably be expected to provide about 4 per cent of our total electricity by 2050. The waves and tides of the ocean provide a potentially vast and reliable source of energy, but because of the challenges in converting it into electricity the scenario assumes only a 1 per cent contribution to global electricity supply by 2050.  Hydro power currently provides 15 per cent of our electricity but because of the environmental and social problems associated with large dams Ecofys lowers its contribution by 2050 to 12 per cent.

The scenario is cautious on biomass, preferring other renewable sources wherever possible. However it recognises that there are some applications where bioenergy is currently the only suitable replacement for fossil fuels. Aviation, shipping and long-haul trucking cannot with current technology be electrified or powered by hydrogen. Some industrial fuels and heat will depend on biomass in 2050. While some of this can come from waste products there will need to be bio-energy crops – around 250 million hectares, or the equivalent of one-sixth of total global cropland – and great care will need to be taken to ensure that they do not use land and water required to grow food or sustain biodiversity. The WWF section of the report is exercised by this question of land use for bioenergy, and expresses the hope that the level of demand for liquid fuels the Ecofys scenario caters for can be further reduced. Algae may meet part of the biomass requirement, but the scenario has it appearing on the scene only by 2030 and only a fraction of its potential is included by 2050.

The renewable resources are enormous, far in excess of our needs. But we need to tap them. This means massive expansion of capacity for generating electricity from them, building large-scale renewable energy plants, not a new generation of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants that could set us back decades. Local micro-generation also has a part to play. International electricity networks need to be extended. Urgent investment is required for smart grids which allow for a significantly higher proportion of electricity to come from variable and decentralised sources. Research is needed into storage options and efficient grid management. Legislation, investment and incentives are required to encourage manufacturers and consumers to switch to electric cars.

And the money? We need a lot of it to be spent in coming decades, but the savings will begin to outweigh the costs by 2040. Unfortunately the current financial system is not geared to taking the long view. We will need new financing models such as public-private partnerships with shared risks, to encourage long-term investment. Legislation and stable political frameworks will also help to stimulate investment. Support such as feed-in tariffs is still dwarfed by the value of global fossil fuel subsidies. Since the aim of those subsidies is often to provide affordable fuel and electricity for poorer people they should not be cut outright but reinvested into providing renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

There’s much more that the report addresses. Equity issues are central and the report places the end of energy poverty at the heart of its energy vision. The rich countries have built their economies on cheap plentiful fossil fuels. They are in a position to assist poorer countries who have not had this resource to develop their own renewable energy capacity. Advanced renewable energy technology must be shared with developing countries.

A renewable energy future doesn’t mean sacrificing our quality of life. We can maintain rates of economic growth and lead prosperous, healthy lives.

What about the lifestyle implications which worry the well off?  The Ecofys scenario does not demand radical changes to the way we live. The report asserts that a renewable energy future doesn’t mean sacrificing our quality of life. We can maintain rates of economic growth and lead prosperous, healthy lives. Indeed the quality of life for many will improve greatly with access to electricity and clean energy. There will be some changes. In wealthier countries we will need to eat less meat and waste less food, wean ourselves from large fast cars, use public transport more, walk and cycle more, be more judicious in the frequency of our travel – but these are hardly deep sacrifices, and surely not changes we will refuse to make when the benefits are so apparent.

The shift to renewable energy can be made. Climate change apart it would have to be made as fossil fuels are depleted. But climate change cannot be set apart, which is why WWF has settled on 2050 as the date for the full transition to be realised. Technologically it is clearly possible. Financially it is not beyond our capacity. However, political direction and business and investor engagement are essential. There is much to be cheered by in the report. “Let’s get on with it,” is the rational response. But rationality still struggles to prevail in the climate change arena. Hopefully the painstaking research and evident good sense of reports such as this will make politicians and business people see clearly that we can achieve what we must achieve if we are to prevent climate disaster.

[The Quiet One]

54 thoughts on “Here comes the sun: 100% renewables by 2050”

  1. There has never been any doubt that the conversion can be done its simply a question of political will and the support of the majority of the people.
    In New Zealand we have a high rate of renewable’s but are still planning on digging more coal.. No plan for the shutting of Huntley, no plan for extending the use of our railways and no plan for more economical cars, let alone electric.
    The task is huge. If all the car plants in the World started building electric cars tomorrow it would take ten years to replace the car fleet. We are miles away from even starting. Even so we need to start soon.

    1. We could start by just getting realistic about our needs in cars as opposed to our desires. We actually *need* about 50cc/100kg of load, that’s about a 250cc vehicle for most trips, even allowing for 2 passengers. Laugh if you will, but there’s an extraordinary amount of vanity involved in cars. We also need to rethink our daily journeys, our city layouts, our expectations for holidays or recreation, the movement of freight, even the speed at which we travel. Which in turn affects the need for crash resistant, grossly overweight vehicles.

  2. This is all impossible! We cannot think about the future. We must accept that our amazing engineering talents have peaked and are now in irreversible decline, we can only continue to drill holes and remove mountain tops. We must not try to solve our energy problems. To do so would bring about the end of civilisation as we know it: man would have to walk upwards of 1 km a day to get to work and buy expensive electric lawnmowers to mow his quarter acre. Do you not realise how ridiculous that is? We have no choice except to use all the remaining fossil fuels as fast as possible (before those evil developing countries do!), and hope God delivers us a miracle. Embrace the rapture before it’s too late!

    1. Gee, erentz, you’ve spoiled all the fun for some of our regular contrarians; whose slogan appears to be ‘Don’t worry about the future – it’s impossible!’

      1. Exactly. I think when Wrath, Leyland and John return all we should keep asking them is how their version of the future is supposed to work out and if they have any peer reviewed science that says it will….

        1. Lack of future predictions on their part does not demonstrate their denial. Refusal to address simple science cliams like EG Beck and Ken Ring does demonstrate their denial.

          1. I agree, but their ability or lack of the same to express a workable plan B that would have us remain using fossil fuels is in my view perhaps the strongest argument that they must face. They can deny evidence on AGW to the cows come home but the future of humanities energy supply – and that is what this issue is really about – they surely must address.

            1. Agreed. They can’t extend themselves to thinking of ways to solve these problems. Doing so first requires them to believe there is a problem, or at least have the capacity to work with it as a hypothetical problem, and they can’t do that. If they did that and realised there were solutions then they’d lose their fall back in every argument: “Oh even if climate change is real, there’s no way to solve it. It’ll cost bajillions! People will have to live in huts in the forest and eat their babies! So we shouldn’t put effort into it.” They realise it’s a very slippery slope from there to the implementation of the great socialist conspiracy agenda to make everyone’s lives miserable.

        1. Enjoy it while it lasts – they’re with us in spirit, judging by the number of red button pushes (but that may be just the one bad loser circumventing the system!)

        2. Yeah, where did they go, how come they’re not agreeing with my analysis? Could this finally be the cure for denier trolls: inoculate each thread with a small bit of satire at the begining?

          1. I know Fran Barlow complied a rather amusing pre-emptive list of all the major denier memes – rounding off with, at about number 20, ‘and anyway, Al Gore is fat’ – which I rather enjoyed, but I’m buggered if i can find it!

            I’ll say it again; admit it, guys, the Al Gore obsession – it’s a bear thing, isn’t it? 😉

            The responses are so predictable we could mostly knock them up ourselves; perhaps inoculation is the answer? But I suspect the recently arrived Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg will prove too much for them…

    2. A lot of things that were just a theory decades ago are now unthinkable to live without, so I don’t think that a cleaner world in theory isn’t good and will lead us into a catastrophe. You just have to think further ahead. Developing countries will grow and need more energy. Europe will culturally fall behind countries which can cope better with multiculturalism. We need to tap all of our fossil sources now to research economically feasible renewable sources, better batteries, micro hydro plants, a better power grid, more efficient and cheap solar cells. When the fossil runs out and the prices go up, we will have a good alternative. By 2050, possibly.

      1. Julie – if we do burn all the FF now – we seriously risk run-away global warming, that we can do nothing to stop. Indeed the Global Climate is already very close to tipping points. The trouble is no one can say precisely just where and when they will be – but the signs are there. An ice free Arctic would be one.
        But read the second most recent Post. The Oceans are under severe stress. Adding more CO2 to the oceans than we have to, is madness. We originate from the sea, our life depends on it, 50% of oxygen is formed there, destroying it with continued acidification will ultimately destroy us.

  3. “…there will need to be bio-energy crops – around 250 million hectares, or the equivalent of one-sixth of total global cropland – and great care will need to be taken to ensure that they do not use land and water required to grow food or sustain biodiversity”
    That’s an awful lot of land being proposed to grow bio-energy crops. Surely there are crops which can provide both food and bio-energy? After all, in most cases we only eat part of a plant.

    It’s great to see such a range of ideas being explored.

    1. … and the other part often forms part of the soil for the next generation of plants. If we remove a very high percentage of the biomass from the fields, how will the fragile soil system cope? With the plant materials we carry the minerals away too that normally are returned to the soil though composting. This is one of my worries about this.

    2. Quoting Carol: “That’s an awful lot of land being proposed to grow bio-energy crops. Surely there are crops which can provide both food and bio-energy? After all, in most cases we only eat part of a plant.”
      It also assumes business-as-usual in consumption of energy instead of embracing reduced demand, more efficiency.
      I believe we are seeing big improvements in the production & conversion of algae into liquid fuels. They have the big advantages of being able to be attached to CO2 generators like power plants and not requiring the sacrifice of vast tracts of increasingly valuable soil to feed our lust for 4x4s.
      Of course, algae can also be used to make food as well….Soylent Green anyone?

      1. @Carol/Thomas: the use of (non-edible) (food) crop residues for energy purposes is actually included in The Energy Report. In identifying the potential for these residues, any residue needed to safeguard soil conditions is excluded for energy generation. In addition, as many of the residues are anaerobically digested, they can be used as organic fertiliser after extracting energy.

        @Kiwiiano: very ambitious energy effiency measures are included in The Energy Report. See the main article: “They assess global energy demand in 2050 15 per cent lower than in 2005, by contrast with ‘business-as-usual’ projections which predict energy demand will at least double”.

      2. I have grown algae commercially to feed paua and as part of sewage treatment systems. It needs an energy supply (sunlight is free but infrequent, 24/7 artificial light is expensive and energy-intensive) some oxygen a bit of carbon but definitely dear old NPK. By the tonne.

        If the tank or pond is more than half a meter deep the light doesn’t reach the cells and they die. If its more than 1m deep the bottom goes anoxic and it all turns to custard. If you agitate you need energy to do that; you improve growth which in turn reduces light penetration, for net very little advantage.

        Anybody can grow slime in a jar. But up-scaling heads you towards a negative ERoEI long before you produce enough to power New York’s cabs, or even Ashburton’s.


  4. On saving energy. There was a very good lecture on UCTV which said that 40% of the energy we produce is used in buildings and that if we designed and insulated our buildings properly we could halve the requirement. Also the suns energy hits the Earth at 240 watts per square meter and an average house has at least 4 kilo watts of energy available to heat and run it.
    We all know the answers. Just not getting on with it fast enough.

  5. Its quite funny really; this frenetic drive ‘towards’ a sustainable energy future.

    We are going to get a sustainable energy future what ever we do, because when we have finished stealing our grand children’s energy supply and run out of non-renewables, life (such as it is) will continue based only on the energy that is available and renewable at useful rates in human timescales.

    There is no need to fuss; our 100% renewable energy future is all sorted and by 2050 we will be able to say to the children asking “Are we there yet?” “Yes dears, we are almost there.”

    1. The only problem with this scenario Nigel is that if we continue to burn carbon in “business as usual”, the planet will “overheat”, and there won’t be any grandchildren to speak of. 450+ ppm is starting to look like a bridge too far. Not a safe target to be aiming for.

    2. There is climate change and peak oil, neither will be sudden imho but both are hard to logically refute and very concerning . Probably not a bad idea to start with the renewables now given research and devlopment takes time. I think thats what a lot are getting at. Some industries are allready looking at alternatives to carbon based technology as they can see cost savings, ironically.

  6. Projecting a world energy demand in 2050 that is 15% less than today is to put it bluntly fanciful. Just for starters if you add the number of people that don’t have access to reliable electricity today with the projected increasing world population by 2050, you would probably find that the number of electricity consumers could well increase by something like 75%. Furthermore, while it *might* be possible to constrain the per capita growth in energy consumption or even reduce energy consumption in the developed countries, it is extremely unlikely that the world average per capita consumption will not rise in any scenario that projects any semblance of social and economic equity for much of the population of the developing world.

    Dealing with climate change is dealing with risk and developing energy “plans” for an energy demand scenario that looks like an extreme outlier on the distribution of possible scenarios seems to me not just foolish but downright misleading. It is a nonsensical approach to risk that substitutes wishful for critical thinking.

    The EIAs projection of marketed energy consumption increases by 1.4% per year with a total increase of 49% by 2035. Inbuilt into the projection is a 3.2% per year growth in world GDP implying a considerable improvement in the energy intensity of economic activity.

    After reading a few these “Zero carbon by 20nn” plans I have have come to the conclusion that they are constructed just as much to “lock out” nuclear power as to seriously address the climate problem. The single page on nuclear power in this plan was abysmal with entirely fact free assertions such as nuclear is “extremely expensive”.

    Time for a reality based discussion of energy and climate.

    1. I have been an anti – nuclear advocate for quite some years – drafting policy statements in the 1980’s for national institutions etc. But I am coming to the conclusion that a continued anti-nuclear stance can no longer be maintained. I am still firmly of the opinion that 1st, 2nd, and perhaps even 3rd Generation, Nuclear Power Plants are to be avoided at all cost The long term problems associated with these are just far too great. However 4th Generation Plants can firstly alleviate some of the waste from earlier, there is already thousands of years supply stored in the US. And secondly, they are far more efficient and the waste problems are much reduced.
      There is always the problem of contamination, and the strategical problem of attack from outside forces in time of war. (Not to be brushed off lightly – eg Dam Buster Raids in the 2nd world war.) Cruise missiles make this sort of tactical insurgence much more feasible. Overall the essential problem is that humanity MUST reduce its dependency on Carbon, and if that is what it takes – that is what it takes.

      1. I find myself in the same boat. With the addendum that the timescales involved in getting 4th generation and esp thorium reactors off the ground (perhaps that should be onto the ground) makes fast rollout of renewables even more urgent.

        We can’t sit on our hands saying those wonderful new thingummies will save us. Nothing will save us unless we start now with what we’ve got.

        And I use “save us” in a limited, realistic sense. We’ve already overshot the mark for many metres of sea level rise and we’ve probably knocked the next ice age out of the sequence. But if our grandchildren’s grandchildren are ever going to eat any fish, we have to start the move to nil or negative carbon now.

      2. Mark me down in the former-anti-nuclear-advocate-now-saying ‘2 cheers for Gen 4; hip hip – hurh… (mumble mumble); hip hip hurh… (mumble mumble)’ camp as well.

        And to all the stated reservations add the opportunity cost of investing so much in this one, phenomenally expensive basket; the associated ongoing issue of centralization; and its being the ‘alternative’ that the business as usual consumertopia is most likely to embrace – meaning we may not melt the poles but we’ll more-than-likely kill off at least half-the-neighbours who didn’t have the foresight to be genus Homo anyway…

      3. Minor problem with Nukes for NZ is finding the matching backup. A minimum-sized nuke is a big percentage (~25% to 40%) of our national electricity and so to cover that generation we will have to have spinning hot shafts someplace of that same capacity.

        Its OK in bigger networks like Europe and USA where each nuke is just a fraction and can be well covered. But in NZ it makes no sense at all, IMHO.

        1. I’ll note, at this point, that I’m an Aussie; but the same argument would probably hold for my small state (in population terms, that is) – which also happens to hold the largest stockpile of uranium ore in the world…

          1. Let’s face it. Even if our state went completely bonkers and moved to a population size that might justify a reactor, there’s no way we could ever find the cooling water.

            Anyway, my view is that there’s solar and wind enough for the whole of any and all power generation in Australia, Africa, India, the tropics and the Middle East – as well as most of the two Americas. Only the very high latitudes and high altitudes are a problem for 100% renewable generation as well as a few, very few, other unusual places.

      4. As I think I have mentioned before, I wrote an article in a university magazine in 1989, in which I argued that the environmental movement should stop its opposition to nuclear power because global warming represented a far more significant and imminent threat.

        For most developed countries, nuclear absolutely has to be part of the picture, at least during the carbon reduction phase. I don’t think the economics of nuclear add up in NZ, though.

        1. I agree with you opinion regards nuclear in nz – we are fortunate to have an abundance of renewable alternatives and a a small population centred in smallish cities.

  7. New Zealand currently gets about two thirds of the electricity generated from renewables, not bad by world standards but not enough to reach co2 reduction targets required to stabilise the climate, even if you don’t allow for major increases in electricity use for electric vehicles, heat pumps, and other carbon-based fuel substitutions. Also, our advantages of good hydro and wind resources might be affected by increased climate variability; a dry summer followed by a cold, calm winter could leave us at risk of blackouts if Huntly’s coal generation was abandoned. Finland is about the same size as New Zealand, with one third of electricity currently from renewables, but has four nuclear plants, is building a fifth, and has plans for two more.

  8. Some people are commenting “where did the deniers go”. I presume this includes me, although I do not consider myself a ‘denier’.

    Firstly, its good to be missed, thanks.

    The reason I haven’t felt the urge to comment is because I agree with most of the comments already made. There is no need to write “yes I agree”.

    I think it is entirely possible to have an almost 100 per cent renewable electricity generation regime by 2050, and something we should aim for – for a whole host of reasons. Whether or not we get there will depend on the technology developed over the next 30 years. I agree with quokka’s comment on developing country needs and energy efficiency. Agree with CTG on nuclear. Just simply do not have issue with this as a plan for 2050 (although I haven’t read the report).

    I have tried to give a polite and honest response to some of the rude comments posted above. Please do not mention ‘Ring’ or ‘Beck’ in some irrelevant or response, or post further rude comments.

    1. But why not ask you again about EG Beck and Ken Ring? These are legitimate questions about your understanding of the climate change science that you have consistently dismissed. Questions you have evaded. Why? If you know nothing about these things then why do you doubt the opinion of your demonstrably betters?

      Is it such a big deal to even anonymously say that there are some fruit loop deniers out there? Or is it that by doing this you would show Bob Carter, Bryan Leyland et al. to be incompetent liars?

        1. No. This really is simple.

          You dismiss climate change science. You elsewhre admit the inability to tell if EG Beck and Ken Ring are right or wrong. I have advised you of where to obtain an assessment from “your side”. You refuse to do so.

          You expose for all to see that you have no credibility to comment on climate change science. If, for example to take a purely hypothetical case, I worked for an organistaion that utterly depends on a predicitable climate then I might be a little more circumspect about spouting nonsense.

            1. Hate to disagree but this is the substantive point. There is no point engaging with denialist trolls if you restrict yourself only to topics they want to talk about. By all means engage on other topics as well but make them squirm and answer the questions they don’t want to answer.

              My head is tired from bobbing and pretending / Listening to some bullet-head and the madness that he’s saying


        2. And then, R2, there are those intriguing ‘problems of knowledge’ that centre around you. Facts or observations that are the result of mere scientific erudition are always subject to a hyper-scepticism so extreme it verges on the zen (how do we know we know anything?!)

          And yet at other times you also cheerfully embrace the existence of such nebulous entities as ‘natural cycles’ – as has been observed before, ‘Leprechauns’ is, at least, definable!

          And it just happens – amazingly – that pro AGW arguments need to be subjected to the full ‘zen’ rigour, while the contrarian positions can drift along in their fluffy pink cloud of woo, unmolested…

  9. You lot have been reading too much Brave New Climate.

    A new study from Stanford and Davis Universities show how the world can be 100% renewable by 2050 accounting for full IEA demand growth predictions and using existing technologies (ie we can start deploying now).

    There are savings made in total energy consumed mainly by switching from fossil fuels to more efficient electricity.

    Only 3.8 million 5 MW wind turbines are needed and the total extra land area (including allowance for spacing) is 0.59% of global land surface.

    The EWEA blog has the news story and a link to the paper.

  10. The Guardian has a piece on UK emissions with this interesting factoid:

    Total UK emissions have increased by 19% since 1990. Net imported CO2 emissions (embedded in the products and services UK citizens buy) have risen substantially. This has counteracted the 12% reduction in UK domestic emissions.”

    When discussing potential savings of CO2 emissions by energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption, especially in the developed world, it’s clearly essential to not confuse just shifting the energy consumption and emissions elsewhere with genuine improvements in energy efficiency and lowered consumption.

  11. a scathing critique of the WWF report here

    “The Scenario’s most obvious shortcoming was the absence of any notions of embodied energy, as well as the essential issue of Net Energy or Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI).”

    its all about what is technically posible rather than what people can or might do… this is largely absent …

    “Despite the lack of flesh and blood in the WWF report—and thus of course, hunger, desire, discrimination, greed, entitlement, tradition, and all sorts of addictions and dependencies—present in it, nevertheless is an overriding subjective consciousness, whose presence made me feel increasingly uncomfortable as I read the report.”

    1. An interesting read. Get’s a little high-falutin’ for me sometimes (I note that some of the author’s other posts strike me as being waaaaaay over the heads over the very slum-dwelling non-elites he’s purporting to represent – given they’re unlikely to be philosophy majors – for example), but the gist of needing to map technocratic solutions onto the realities of peoples lives is doubtlessly sound.

      We certainly do need to be aware of any renewal project not becoming a neo-colonial exercise. And I, too -sitting here in my 100 year old worker’s cottage with Solar panels on the roof – have been struck that it’s all very well to theoretically raze of retrofit everything, but who has to pay and how much carbon gets pumped out in the process?

      But I doubt the people at WWF are acting in bad faith; just as the critiques of the potential social harm of the ethanol economy have been taken on board by climate activists, I’m sure all this will become part of a healthy progressive debate. Just as the report and Bryan’s article are.

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