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Discussion > Good paper by Prof MJKelly, May 2016

Worth reading:

Lessons from technology development for energy and sustainability
M.J. Kelly
Electrical Engineering Division, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0FA, UK
There are lessons from recent history of technology introductions which should not be forgotten when considering alternative energy technologies for carbon dioxide emission reductions.
The growth of the ecological footprint of a human population about to increase from 7B now to 9B in 2050 raises serious concerns about how to live both more efficiently and with less permanent impacts on the finite world. One present focus is the future of our climate, where the level of concern has prompted actions across the world in mitigation of the emissions of CO2. An examination of successful and failed introductions of technology over the last 200 years generates several lessons that should be kept in mind as we proceed to 80% decarbonize the world economy by 2050. I will argue that all the actions taken together until now to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide will not achieve a serious reduction, and in some cases, they will actually make matters worse. In practice, the scale and the different specific engineering challenges of the decarbonization project are without precedent in human history. This means that any new technology introductions need to be able to meet the huge implied capabilities. An altogether more sophisticated public debate is urgently needed on appropriate actions that (i) considers the full range of threats to humanity, and (ii) weighs more carefully both the upsides and downsides of taking any action, and of not taking that action.

Jun 6, 2016 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Discussed at climate etc a few days ago.

Also here at CNBC.

Jun 7, 2016 at 9:18 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Not a good paper really!

Any mention of "Hiroshima bomb" loses it for me.

Also " The second is that, over the next two decades, the single place where the greatest impact on carbon dioxide emissions can be achieved is in the area of personal behaviour".

He is fully sold on the concept: CO2 = BAD.

Jun 11, 2016 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Richards

Steve - is it the use of the bomb as an energy metric that upsets you? Do you not think it helps scale destructive impact in a way that a Terajoule number does not?:

It is also clear that we must de-risk all energy infrastructure
projects over the next two decades. While the level of uncertainty
remains high, the ‘insurance policy’ justifi cation of urgent largescale
intervention is untenable, and we do not pay premiums
if we would go bankrupt as a consequence. Certain things we do
not insure against, such as a potential future mega-tsunami, 64
or a supervolcano, 65 or indeed a meteor strike, even though there
have been over 20 of these since 2000 with the local power of the
Hiroshima bomb! 66 Using a signifi cant fraction of the global GDP
to possibly capture the benefi ts of a possibly less troublesome
future climate leaves more urgent actions not undertaken.

Re: CO2 = BAD, did you not read this?:

To the question whether
a few degrees of warming really matters, the answer is 220
words of dire warning concluding with the following 19 words:
‘Even though certain regions may realize some local benefit
from the warming, the long-term consequences overall will be
disruptive’. While this almost certainly represents the balance
of the research actually done, i.e., to fi nd every possible trouble
wherever it might be, it does point up the glaring absence of any
substantial work on the upsides of increased carbon dioxide
emissions today, which include over 10% of the increased global
agricultural productivity, 55 and the greening of the deserts and
the tropics more generally. 56
In 2011, 43 Fellows of the Royal Society petitioned the Council
of the Royal Society to revise its public position on Climate
Change from one that violated its motto (Nullius In Verba—take
no-ones work for it but check the facts yourself) in pointing out
that anyone who disagreed with the IPCC view was mistaken,
to one that properly emphasized the uncertainties, which grew
greater the further one looked ahead. 57 Indeed it is only in
July 2014—20 years too late for me—that a two-sided debate
on what to do about anthropogenic climate change was held
at the Royal Society, 58 although not under the auspices of the
Royal Society,—that is yet to happen.

Jun 14, 2016 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

As with so many of these learned papers, the basic tent of the message is that any progress by humans is a Bad Thing. The very fact that we have moved from the subsistence farming of “pre-industrial” times (like, the Romans had no industry?) to the present era of comfortable civilisation has, by the principles held most dear by the Believers, to be a Bad Thing; living a life in abject squalor is all we are good for (they, of course, are exempt from that scenario).

The very idea that the increase in CO2 is human-derived is probably the greatest hubris, the greatest conceit and the greatest con, that has ever been promulgated. It has happened in the past; what is it about the present that makes it so different from then? Oh, yes – ’cos, this time, there are humans around to witness it, therefore, it is humans that are causing it. Great logic.

Warming is irrelevant to CO2 levels; the fact that there has been a pause in warming for nearly 2 decades, while the CO2 has risen inexorably, should give some clue, there, even to the most obtuse academic. Similarly, the rise in human consumption of “fossil fuels” is irrelevant to rising CO2 levels; again, the simple observation that the consumption in fossil fuels has risen exponentially, while CO2 has risen, and continues to rise, linearly should also give some clue to the thickest student in this discussion. But, logic is another irrelevance to this debate, as is true science; this is all about the establishment of a new religion.

Jun 16, 2016 at 5:43 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Is that the same Professor Kelly who took exception to the idea that you can perform 'experiments' by running computer models?

Jun 17, 2016 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A