The editors of the Washington Post jump into the scrum on fossil fuel use:
The new IPCC report advises global leaders that the oft-cited goal of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius is riskier than many imagine. A 1.5-degree goal would be far less dangerous, but the world has only about a decade to make the “rapid and far-reaching” changes required to meet that goal.
The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees would be substantial. Coral reefs would go from mostly gone to almost entirely gone. More sea-level rise would put up to 10 million more people in danger. High heat would kill more people. It would be much hotter on land and in cities. Deadly mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and dengue fever would spread farther. Droughts would be more likely. So would deluges. Tropical fisheries would empty further. Staple crop yields, particularly in some of the world’s poorest nations, would decline more. Disastrous loss of the Antarctic ice sheet would be more likely. Feedback loops could push warming further than anticipated, as, for example, thawing permafrost releases gases the frozen ground has trapped for centuries. Up to nearly 1 million additional square miles of permafrost would thaw at 2 degrees of warming.
To their credit they allow nuclear power generation a supporting role:
Radically changing the trajectory would require a combination of strategies. Humans would need to waste far less energy. Forests would have to be preserved and expanded. Emissions-free renewables would have to ramp up — to around three-quarters of global electricity demand by 2050 — with an assist from nuclear and still-nascent carbon-capture technology that sequesters emissions from traditional fossil fuel burning. Extra-dirty coal, which still produces more electricity than any other single source, would have to be finally phased out. The transition would require investment of about 2.5 percent of world GDP through 2035.
To my eye this is proof positive that newspapers need to hire fewer J-school grads and more engineers. At present solar and wind power require fossil fuel backups, backups that must be in continuous operation. More solar and wind inherently mean more waste. And that doesn’t delve into the total lifetime. Reservoir hydroelectricity is by far the most popular form and results in substantial production of methane, a worse problem pound for pound than carbon dioxide. Nuclear will need more than a supporting role.
The graph above illustrates U. S. greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. As you can see the U. S. has actually decreased its production of greenhouse gases and that was without draconian measures. In China and India every additional dollar of GDP requires additional production of greenhouse gases. That’s not the case here.
The U. S. is the largest producer of greenhouse gases and we can do more but we’re moving in the right direction. The editors of the Washington Post need to direct their fire on countries that are going in the wrong direction which includes Germany. Doing otherwise is simply looking for political targets of opportunity.