Yes We Can Says UN

The headline comes in two parts.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  has a report out showing we can get 80% of our energy from renewable sources and save the planet by 2050, investing just 1% of global GDP in the effort.

But the IPCC is affiliated with the United Nations, so conservatives smell a conspiracy. As Warwick Hughes notes, the IPCC was “implicated” in the “Climategate” scandal and is thus unreliable.

Only there was no scandal. The memos in question were selectively edited by denialists to prove something that wasn’t true, namely that the members of the IPCC have closed minds and we should be open to the idea that climate change is false. Unfortunately you’ll never get conservatives to admit that, so anything from the IPCC becomes political and thus suspect.

More to their liking is this from the Committee on Climate Change, a creature of the UK’s Conservative government, which urges aid to offshore wind projects should be scaled back, and that the country should instead meet its targets for reducing carbon through nuclear power and renewable imports.

The report’s author, David Kennedy, states quite blandly that his conclusion is reasonable given that “it’s only as you get to the end of the 2020s, the beginning of the 2030s, that the cost of renewables start to converge with nuclear.”

Oh really? Not really

Kennedy reaches his conclusion by ignoring the enormous capital costs of nuclear power, and the “bathtub” curve, which shows risks are highest where a system is new. If you spend 10 years building a nuclear plant, your risks of another Fukushima are at their maximum around 2020, and the chances of a catastrophic event are highest then. Only by ignoring these risks can he come to the conclusion he claims.

Science that ignores facts is called advertising.

Ignore the cost of carbon. Ignore wars in calculating oil costs. Ignore government subsidies to coal and oil and natural gas. But claim any support for wind and solar is a “tax,” and claim the same for any government effort to capture the hidden costs of carbon.

This is a game cavemen play. They ignore their costs, speak darkly of your costs, and bamboozle the public using the money being “earned” along the way.

It’s the same game the cigarette makers played for many years.

The best answer for it is profit. The “costs” of renewable energy are not “costs” at all. They’re investments. Yesterday’s investments are already generating a return, in the form of profits. More investment will generate profits.

Not every investment will play out, just as in the early days of oil wildcatting not every well was a gusher. But plenty have, and plenty more will, if we’re willing to make the investment in devices that harvest the abundance all around us.

Remember. There is no energy shortage. There is only a shortage of harvesting equipment, something that doesn’t exist when you’re digging stuff out of the ground and burning it only because that industry has existed for hundreds of years and has sunk its capital costs deep into its balance sheet.

The only thing cavemen have is scale. As the solar and wind and geothermal industries scale up even this last argument against them will fade. But it will take time. It took over 30 years to start getting laws mandating “smoke free” restaurants, after the case against cigarettes was proven.

Why should this be any different?





Previous articleThe Emerging Market for Small Renewables in California
Next articleXsunX taps MAG to handle cell-to-module assembly support on CIGSolar process
Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog,, in 2007.

No posts to display