Efficiency is not enough
November 3, 2009, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The FT is doing a lot of climate stuff at the moment, not all of which I have caught up with, and much of which I am sure is excellent, but this para in yesterday’s broadly fine leader on following the science is flat wrong:

Fortunately the science becomes much clearer when we move from predicting the climate itself to assessing how best to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Forget about esoteric “geo-engineering” proposals to cool the earth. Technology that already exists (or is in development) can do the job perfectly well by increasing the efficiency with which we use carbon-based energy.

The point here is not that I disagree with the notion of ignoring geoengineering — reasonable people can and do differ on that, as noted last week. But the idea that the earth can be cooled by using carbon-based energy more efficiently is just not true. Efficiency can slow the rate of warming — but any meaningful cooling will need  zero-emissions energy and probably a fair bit of direct air carbon capture too.

Unsuprisingly, the letters in today’s issue do not point out this error, because they are from people objecting instead to following the scientific consensus — including one from a chap who claims that there was once a scientific consensus that the world was flat. Can we get a better class of sceptic please?


3 Comments so far
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Even among 350.org volunteers, there doesn’t seem to be a general understanding that stabilizing atmospheric GHG concentrations requires cutting emissions to zero.

Indeed, a number of committed climate activists have told me flat-out that they think achieving such a cut is impossible, but that they also believe in the 350 target.

Comment by Milan

Perhaps they confused the solution to the energy crisis with the solution to the climate crisis. I’ve no doubt efficiency will prolong the healthy functioning of the world economy long enough for us to dispose of most all the remaining fossil fuels in an orderly fashion. Into the atmosphere of course.

Comment by zeitgeiber

I suspect that a better class of journalists would draw a better class of skeptics. The article advocated that government should ignore scientists who held minority views, so it isn’t surprising that this was disputed by those who read with comprehension and hold different views about the proper role of government.

The defects that you note seem representative of the general confusion of the journalists in question.

Comment by back40

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