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This article based upon a banker’s presentation aimed at selling investors on renewables properly summarizes the banker’s point; but as these many comments highlight, the banker’s point is very simplistic.

European countries like Germany and Denmark with the highest renewable usage also have the highest overall utility rates because bringing on large amounts of renewables has not allowed an overall decrease in rates paid by consumers due to the complexities of the overall costs involved. In South Australia the move to renewables has led to frequent outages. If we as a global society are not wise about how we go about adopting renewables we might just end up exacerbating instability in our fragile systems and end up prematurely destroying the fossil fuel based infrastructure and complex supply lines that widespread adoption of renewables will depend upon. In that case we would simply have a die-off of population and revert back to using the mostly using the “renewables” of our ancestors (biomass feed for horses and oxen).

For insight into the complexities involved in the issue of the interplay between energy and the economy I highly recommend this blog:

If we fail to transition to a hi-tech energy future, our subsequent population die-off, though, need not be traumatic to society as a whole (though it would be individually traumatic to those who die younger than they had hoped).

At a 3% rate of decrease, world population would shrink from 7.4 billion to 1 billion in about 65 years. That would require an 8 fold increase in current net mortality rate. So most people instead of knowing 1–2 people who died during the year would know of 8–16. Like the famous of painting of Icarus falling from the sky, life would go on. Birthrates, though, would also likely decrease during this time due to a shrinking population base. Therefore, with fairly small increases in net mortality, the current population can drop significantly in a relatively short time.

At just a 1% rate of decrease, within 150 years, society could be back to living a pre-industrial circa 1800 life style (albiet with a few residual hi-tech perks) with a world population similar to that era of 1 billion. For the vast majority of people in those generations, life would have still have been “normal”, but just characterized by a slow conscious transition from more to less material wealth.

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