While completing this manuscript, I have also been providing a client with advice about renewable and low emissions technology development in the Asia Pacific region. The whole world now seems to be worried about how on earth we will reduce global emissions while countries with massive populations, like India and China, cut their path of industrialization. And, on the face of it, the numbers don't look great.
To make a long story short, if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and keep global warming below two degrees, we must limit CO2 emissions to about two tonnes per person per year across the world by 2050. By contrast, modern industrial economies today have emissions levels from just over 10 tonnes all the way up to 25 tonnes of CO2 per person per year, and the populations of India and China are coming along quickly.
So the challenge is to have good standards of living, but at a fraction of the emissions. Is it possible?
Well, here is the ray of sunshine. In principle, not a single piece of technology that will be running in 2050 has yet been installed - no computer, no light bulb, no power station, no wind farm, no factory, no farm tractor, no car, no cooker, no fridge, no aluminium smelter. This means that we still have an almost complete choice about what the future of energy will look like and therefore what emissions will be.
Another ray of sunshine is that it is possible to have an industrial economy operating below this emission level with technologies available today and at a very manageable cost. So the window to address climate change is still open and we have a range of commercially available technologies to hand. Personally, I find it exciting to think that fixing such a colossal problem as global warming is within our grasp! I also believe that achieving the level of cooperation needed will represent an important rite of passage for the human race.
But just because we have the technology doesn't mean the problem is solved. On the contrary, that is the starting point; it is the steps that follow that this book seeks to address. As a species, humanity has the opportunity to make a rational choice, but that doesn't mean that we will! Here it's a tug-of-war between the cost of investment in low emissions industries today and the cost of climate change down the track. It may be easy to keep discounting the future on paper to justify inaction, but nature doesn't read. The most coherent argument against investment now for the future is summed up by Groucho Marx, who jested, 'What has posterity ever done for me?'
What this book really does is focus on industries and political systems as they are (not how we might want them to be) and then works out how the to negotiate the policy and political maze needed to get renewable energy into the market. Since only in a handful of countries are renewables reaching their potential, we can truly view it as a world of opportunity, provided we have the right tools. I hope this book serves as a tool box for those readers from government, industry or civil society who are working to unlock the natural energy resources of their countries.
Finally, it is said that wise people divorce their happiness from the outcomes of their toils. To assist with this process in the reader, I offer this comfort which doubles as a caution: whatever happens, the human race appears destined to achieve a low-emission future, either through a new industrial revolution which will include renewable energy, or through economic depletion and collapse, as the costs of climate impacts unrelentingly take their toll. The outcome for the global atmosphere may be the same — the question is whether, as a race, we can get there the smart way.
I extend my sincere thanks to all of the authors who have contributed to this book and I hope that their willingness to share their knowledge provides insight to those who use this book.
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.