Climate News of the Week Roundup: Dramatic Economic Change Is Inevitable

This week’s roundup covers a NASA funded study saying that civilisational collapse is a pretty regular historic phenomenon and one that may get repeated this century, a viewpoing arguing that a positive economic transformation is far more likely, the IEA lowballing the potential of renewables and new figures on solar energy developments.

Nasa-funded study warns of ‘collapse of civilisation’ in coming decades. Adam Withnall from The Independent covers a new NASA-funded study that points out that the collapse of sophisticated civilisations due to overexploitation of natural resources and too much social inequality is a recurring pattern throughout history. And one the world seems set to repeat on its current trajectory. Changing course is still possible, though.

Carbon Crash Solar Dawn. Paul Gilding has a generally similar view, but his bet is on the optimistic scenario. In his view, “dramatic economic change is not a choice we get to make it, but an inevitable result of physical science. This is because business as usual, with results like ever increasing resource constraint or a global temperature increase of 4 degrees or more, would trigger economic and social collapse. So the only realistic outcomes are such a collapse or an economic transformation that prevents it, with timing the only big unknown. I argued transformation was far more likely and, to my delight, that’s what we see emerging around us today – even faster than I expected.” He opines that renewables and associated storage, transport and digital technologies are so rapidly disrupting whole industries’ business models that they are pushing the fossil fuel industry towards inevitable collapse.

He also has a view on how the transformation is going to come about. While the risk of disruptive climate change now frames thinking, “the mistake many make is to then extrapolate that risk into a likely global policy response as the main driver of change. The thinking goes that we need a ‘Pearl Harbour moment’ – a physical event that forces a global policy agreement to change. As I also argued in The Great Disruption, that’s not how systems change or how our global market society works. Things are far more chaotic and messy – though ironically probably more predictable.”

What We Know. The world’s largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), this week issued a strong call to action on climate change. “We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.” And in their view scientists are as sure about climate change as they are about linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases.

World Energy Outlook hides the real potential of renewables. Ecofys analysts Rolf de Vos and David de Jager pick apart the International Energy Agency’s projections on renewables. They note that the IEA has had to revise its projections upward in every year since 2006 and that it projects a leveling off of renewables expansion after 2020 without giving a justification.

37 GW Of Solar Capacity Installed Worldwide In 2013. James Ayre from CleanTechnica reports that 37 GW of solar were installed last year and notes that this nearly matches the prediction made by analysts NPD Solarbuzz (it’s 1 GW more than they predicted). He concludes that this bodes well for the accuracy of their prediction for this year, which is 49 GW.

Solar Power: Cost of production dropped 60%; price to equal thermal power’s in three years. Shreya Jai from the Economic Times of India reports that solar power is increasingly becoming competitive with conventional sources.

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