Affordable green energy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Funding green technology research to bring down the cost of green energy is the most realistic way of fighting climate change, writes Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Sceptical Environmentalist and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

The following contribution is authored by Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Sceptical Environmentalist and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

"Public scepticism about global warming may be growing, but the scientific consensus is as solid as ever: man-made climate change is real, and we ignore it at our peril. But if that issue is settled (and it should be), there is an equally large and important question that remains wide open: what should we do about it?

One prescription that is bandied about with increasing frequency certainly sounds sensible: the world should drastically cut the amount of greenhouse gases that it pumps into the atmosphere each day. Specifically, we are told, the goal should be a 50% reduction in global carbon-dioxide emissions by the middle of the century.

Even its backers concede that achieving this target won't be easy – and they are right. In fact, they are so right that they are wrong. Allow me to explain.

Our dependency on carbon-emitting fuels is more than enormous. It is overwhelming. For all the talk about solar, wind, and other hyped green-energy sources, they make up only 0.6% of global energy consumption. Renewable energy overwhelmingly comes from often-unsustainable burning of wood and biomass by people in the Third World. Fossil fuels account for more than four-fifths of the world's energy diet. So, in order to cut global carbon emissions in half by the middle of the century, we would obviously have to start getting a lot more of our energy from sources that don't emit carbon.

Can we do this? According to the International Energy Agency, here's what it would take to achieve the goal of cutting emissions by 50% between now and mid-century:

  • 30 new nuclear plants;
  • 17,000 windmills;
  • 400 biomass power plants;
  • Two hydroelectric facilities the size of China's massive Three Gorges Dam; and
  • 42 coal and gas power plants with yet-to-be-developed carbon-capture technology.

Now consider this: this list does not describe what we would have to build between now and 2050, but what we would have to build each and every year until then!

To read the op-ed in full, please click here.

(Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.)

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