While it is of vital importance to be aware of how rapidly human activity is pushing the world toward climate catastrophe, it is of course even more important to focus on the steps required to avoid it. Those steps are all about energy transition and biosphere restoration.
The world is by now well aware of the fact that climate change is a symptom of a very large, global pollution problem: anthropogenic greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide – of which there are two main sources:
- Destruction of forests and soils which act as natural carbon dioxide sinks, and
- fossil fuel combustion in over a billion energy conversion devices (ECDs) used in electricity generation, transportation and heavy industry around the globe.
Population control and land use reform will help restore the planet’s carbon sinks. Replacing fossil fuel-burning ECDs will end fossil fuel combustion. Specifically, electric motors are to replace internal combustion engines. Wind, solar, geothermal (and perhaps fourth generation nuclear) are to replace the thousands coal and gas fired boilers used to generate electricity for the grid and heat for industry.
This replacement – already at some stage and in some form in most parts of the world – is at the core of what we call energy transition, a global process which will take time to accomplish. The sooner the better, but as in any transition, features of the old fossil fuel based system will fade out while the new zero carbon system fades in. To maintain a modicum of functionality, the economic order will have to maintain the old system even as it is being replaced.
So as government, industry and the general population undertake their respective responsibilities with respect to energy transition, it will be necessary to work with the process and measure our steps carefully. Outlawing fossil fuels, coal mines, pipelines and fossil fuel-based ECDs would weaken the energy space, and impair its ability to achieve rapid change. Pipelines are needed to service the fossil fuel based ECDs still extant, so consider them as temporary. In all sectors of the economy, replacing fossil fuel-based ECDs will cut off demand and make fossil fuel suppliers obsolete. Catastrophe averted.