Climate Action: When the Cure Becomes Worse Than the Disease
Tallying up the burgeoning costs of green technology-forcing and fossil fuel divestment
The global decarbonization effort seems to become further divorced from reality with each passing year. Greenhouse gas emissions remain stubbornly high with no prospects for a sustained decline any time soon, and yet, we repeatedly double down on what has not been working thus far.
This article takes aim at the two philosophies driving climate action today: green technology-forcing and fossil fuel divestment. In many cases, these measures have become so costly and impractical that even business as usual would have been a better bet.
Obviously, we must take action on climate change. But we need to do it in a way that delivers net benefits to society. The final section of this article will outline what such climate action might look like.
But first, let’s take a much-needed “net-zero by 2050” reality check.
The Net-Zero-Likelihood Scenario
Net-zero by 2050 has become highly fashionable with every consultancy firm seemingly determined to generate its own unrealistic graphs of how we will get there. The objective energy observer might have dismissed this trend as a passing fad, but then, in mid-2021, the world’s premier energy advisory, the International Energy Agency (IEA), made big waves by getting on the “net-zero by 2050” bandwagon with its own dedicated report.
This IEA scenario was one of the craziest things I’ve seen in all my years of researching the global energy system. It literally had a zero likelihood of occurring because it required fossil fuel demand to keep falling after the big Covid-induced drop in 2020 (see the dotted lines below). Any fool could foresee the big fossil fuel rebound after the world reopened, driving global emissions to new highs in 2021 despite lingering Covid effects.
Unfortunately, churning out zero-likelihood emissions pathways seems to be gaining in popularity. The recently…