Trainer, Ted
February 2010
Energy & Environment;2010, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p49
Academic Journal
Like the Stern Review the IPCC Working Group 3 Reports have been taken as showing that the greenhouse gas emissions problem can be solved at negligible cost, primarily by development of alternative energy technologies. The lengthy Fourth Assessment Report summarises the findings of many studies, rather than present analyses that can be clearly assessed. The argument in this paper is that most and probably all of the studies drawing conclusions about the mitigation potential of alternatives are invalid because they do not consider the possible limitations to renewable energy sources, nuclear energy and geo-sequestration. They are economic modelling studies which take the cost of a unit of carbon mitigation and multiply this by the amount of mitigation required, without regard to the difficulties and limits affecting the extent to which these sources can be scaled up. If the greenhouse problem is to be solved by resort to these technologies then the magnitude of the scale-ability problem is huge. This paper argues that there are major reasons why the alternatives cannot be scaled up sufficiently, and that it is not possible to explain how the anticipated 2050 energy budget could be met without exceeding safe greenhouse limits. If this analysis is sound Stern and the IPCC have been seriously misleading and the greenhouse problem cannot be solved at any cost in a society that is committed to affluent living standards and economic growth. The discussion accepts the climate science in both sources, and does not dispute the desirability of moving to renewable energy.


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