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Tom Kirkman

Why climate change is so hard to tackle: Our stubborn energy system

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A surprisingly good read.  Excerpt below, full article in the link:

Why climate change is so hard to tackle: Our stubborn energy system

To adequately address climate change on the level scientists say we must, the world would need to slash its use of oil, natural gas and coal within 30 years, a Herculean task given our deep dependence.  ...

... The big picture: In 1987, 81% of our world’s energy consumption came from oil, natural gas and coal. Thirty years later, it is still 81% — despite the incredible increase in wind and solar energy, according to the International Energy Agency.

... A lot more is driving fossil fuels’ dominance than just corporate influence on government. Oil, natural gas and coal provide immense benefits to society — even though they also have immense environmental costs.

The chemical makeup of the fuels make them especially good at a lot of things, including industrial processes like making plastics. Renewables or other resources cannot easily replace that (even though big brands, like Legos, are trying).

"Some sectors, such as transportation and petrochemicals [plastics], almost completely rely on one single fuel, in this case oil,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director. ...

... Our dependence on fossil fuels is often likened to that of cigarette smoking, but the analogy doesn’t hold up.

• Smoking is an unhealthy habit some people choose to engage in, and if they choose, they can try to kick that addiction without changing their life.

• Fossil fuels are the foundation of our global economy, and it’s nearly impossible to go about our lives without using them in some form.

More addition, less transition

In the world of energy and climate change, people talk about the “energy transition,” the concept that we are moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But for now and the next few decades, it’s more of an energy addition.

Renewable electricity (which is the primary use for wind and solar) is often being added on top of instead of in lieu of fossil fuels, particularly in Asia’s rapidly growing economies.

Our energy system, particularly electricity, is built on multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments designed to last decades. Replacing them is like changing direction on a jetliner, not a jet ski. ...

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