So… regarding global warming, are we doomed? Or are there practical decarbonization paths to limit the impact of global warming?
I am an optimist (otherwise I would not have been in the solar business for over 40 years). There is a clear path to limiting global temperature increases to 2 degrees celsius by 2100. However, the necessary actions to achieve this goal create “winners and losers,” resulting in political risks — regardless of the underlying social and economic needs.
To be clear, the winners will be various clean energy technologies, including wind, solar, EVs, building electrification and energy storage. The “losers” will be the incumbent fossil fuel industry, as well as their downstream customers. Unfortunately, the incumbent losers have much more lobbying money than the upstart clean energy winners. Fortunately, except for industrial process heat, electricity generated from clean energy sources is cheaper than fossil fuel power generation. But we need to transition to these clean energy sources much faster than we are now.
I have been involved in many formal and informal discussions about the costs, benefits and effects of various global warming solutions. However, it is tricky to see the interactions of these actions when considered together. For example, if we put a higher tax on carbon, does that mean that we do not need to incentivize renewables as much? If we are confident that carbon sequestration will become available at scale in 2030, does that mean we can expand our natural gas use? Or, if we plant a trillion trees, do we need a carbon tax? Basically, there are many levers we can use to get to the desired result.
To help provide guidance on the effectiveness of these various global warming solutions, I have been using a simulation tool called EN-ROADS. Please tune in to this week’s Energy Show for an introduction to EN-ROADS. We’ll also discuss my simulation efforts to keep the Earth’s temperature rise under 2 C by 2100 (hint: lots of renewables, electrification, nuclear and a carbon tax).