I have been following this CO2 thing since college in 85. I studied finance but my electives were science and philosophy. Back then the C02 problem was considered futuristic. Over the past 20 years my opinion has been shaped by economics and science. Too often science and economics is divorced on both sides from each other. When you bring the two together honestly it is much easier to reality test both systems.
When I look at the problem both with science and economics the solutions proposed these days don’t add up. I read somewhere that all human activity would have to end except agriculture for meaningful reductions in carbon but that may even be unrealistic mainly because now we are seeing natural carbon increases from feedbacks from 200 years of human forcing. These feedbacks will likely make any human C02 effort mute. If you consider what needs to be done with carbon emissions related to human activity and apply an economic analysis then you see there won’t be an economy as we know it with what is needed to make an impact. Forget all this fancy technology without an economy because the emission reduction effort is mainly techno not behavioral. Behavior does not sell!
The solutions science is proposing like a net-zero-30 are not plausible if you use honest science and realistic economics. The build out of all these new appliances for solar and wind capture is huge. The support networks needed are as large. The resources needed that will be mined and transported have a massive emissions footprint. The ugliness of it all is rarely acknowledged. The cost of all this does not add up especially considering lower EROI of a holistic renewable system considering long and short-term storage and the resulting backup needed. These other costs are almost never advertised when solar and wind costs are talked about as lowest. They may be lowest cost additions these days but not with a full picture. Fossil fuels real contribution to solar and wind is rarely acknowledged.
Then there is the whole plausibility of a renewable world replicating a renewable world without fossil fuels. This does not add up in my mind. So once this massive buildout is completed then all these appliances will need a new round of building and retiring all that waste stream. We have not even considered the rest of the world has not even started their renewable revolution. So, the current so-called revolution is only half baked. Net-zero-30 is a rich world slogan not a whole world slogan. Considerable emissions are still coming post rich world net-zero-30 (if that happens). It is true the rich emit so much more but look at how big the poor population is and their impact on the natural systems that influence carbon like trees and water resources. These are part of the carbon system too.
The economics of all this is dubious. I have invested in my own life a considerable amount in low emission technology with low return. I have even made an attempt to alter behavior dramatically because I feel behavior is the key variable. Behavior is not even on the radar screen because you can’t sell it. Technology you can sell. I am considering an EV in a year or two and these don’t add up to me. I consider them an advantage in many ways but not a cost benefit one as-is. I like the higher efficiency of electric but then the battery cost is the issue. Emissions are not much lower until the grid is greener. I have seen some articles where battery cost are coming down but not dramatically to ensure a seamless transition that is a revolution. A revolution is what is needed but instead I see a comedy/tragedy. I do permaculture farming which is needed to lower emissions too. This does not add up with what is needed to lower emissions and keep a modern economy going on the food energy side.
So, if some of you techno optimist get disgusted with me that is my honest response to all this explorations I am doing. Keep in mind I have a past business background and a lifelong scientific passion combine in the pursuit of a way of life I live which is green prepping. I have come to the conclusion human civilization is in an end game process both with socio-economic issue and scientific realities of decline of a habitable and growth based human world. The really cruel reality is we are in a box unable to go forwards or backwards with the comfortable modern way of life some of us live. Only 1 billion of us really live well. For the others it is a struggle already. Yes, population reductions are a must but then you are also impacting growth.
This is why I am a doomer but an optimist one. Many of us can embrace more resilience and sustainability to adapt better to this decline but pain is ahead regardless. Techno optimism is a joke really but it does offer hope even if it is likely false hope.
P.S. My REAL Green working vocabulary is progressing quickly. I hope to have it posted next week!
One thought on “The False Hope of Techno Optismism”
There is the theory that emissions have a lag time & therefore exceeding the 3 degree C maximum is already baked into the cake. Highs seem to suggest the trajectory is underway.