David Schwartzman writes in “100% Renewables: Wishful Thinking or Imperative Goal?”, “that a 100 percent global renewable energy transition is, indeed, technically possible in a short time frame (20 to 30 years) with a capacity to supply the same level or even more energy to civilization, than the present infrastructure dominated by fossil fuels.” This is in a report from INSURGE’s Symposium on Pathways to the Post-Carbon Economy.
What does this mean to the privileged ‘western’ (Schwartzman uses the term ‘North’) population who have accepted a lifestyle that is largely reliant on electricity and petrol? Furthermore, are we ready to make drastic changes to lifestyle and habit in order to bring about global greening?
Professor Schwartzman pronounces a few axioms and insights in this article and the requirement which seems to preclude this utopian outcome is the retirement of the largest institutional fossil fuel user in the world, the Pentagon. The current economic and political landscapes do not seem to be approaching this eventuality anytime soon. “Ironically, most of the Pentagon’s oil is consumed in operations directed at protecting America’s access to foreign oil and maritime shipping lanes”. (Common Dreams)
The second condition that is of great importance and worthy of long debate is the rights and responsibilities of the different peoples of the planet pertaining to the use of available new world power sources. With technologies quickly and impressively providing better alternatives to fossil fuels, the burning question in a warming biosphere is how much leeway will affluent users allow the growing numbers of needy Southern Hemisphere neighbours who were previously hardly on the grid?
If, as a race, we commit to reducing GHG’s and clean the environment for the benefit of all, then there is possibly going to be a lot of previously poor people living with electricity, driving vehicles and keeping pets. The seemingly ordinary ‘luxuries’ that we take for granted will be made available to more along with the associated energy costs.