The Economist Climate Change Survey
The survey concentrates on industrial emissions rather than emissions from agriculture and deforestation, but leaves out air travel, which The Economist plans to tackle in a future issue. The series examines what is driving change in the sectors most responsible for GHG emissions; the nature and extent of that change; and its likely social and economic impact.
Throughout, articles in the series argue that business has not changed nearly enough to have any chance of averting global warming; but, given the right incentives, business can make a significant difference. Whether or not that happens will be largely determined in America, assert the editors.
Here are links to the articles in the survey with short excerpts:
- Cleaning up (introduction)
“Big emitters are beginning to price carbon into their investment plans, and to alter them accordingly. As a result, wind and solar energy are getting an enormous boost, the price of electricity produced from renewable sources is dropping fast and a flurry of projects to sequester carbon emissions from power generation is beginning to get under way. On the transport side, money is flowing into biofuels and electric cars.”
“Yet emissions keep on rising. If greenhouse-gas concentrations are to be stabilised, then the carbon price or the support mechanisms for clean energy, or both, will have to rise or be adopted worldwide, or both. And if that happens, the returns on clean-energy investments will increase even further and the companies that have already invested in such businesses will have a head start over those that have not.”
- Everybody’s green now
“How America’s big companies got environmentalism.”
- Trading thin air
“The carbon market is working, but not bringing forth as much innovation as had been hoped. … European emissions overall are not falling, which suggests there may not be as much switching out of coal, or as much technological innovation, as had been hoped.”
- Irrational incandescence
“People can’t be bothered to make easy energy savings. Some ways of cutting carbon are cheaper than others. So, at different carbon prices different sorts of methods of abatement become worthwhile.”
Even economically beneficial investments that save energy and reduce emissions often are not undertaken, an ‘economic irrationality’ which may indicate a need for stronger government policy, argues The Economist.
- Fairfield v. the valley
Articles compares and contrast Vinod Khosla, chief executive of Khosla Ventures, with Jeff Immelt, chief executive of GE.
Mr. Khosla is backing some 27 companies in four clean-energy areas: replacing oil, replacing coal, developing new materials and energy efficiency.
Mr. Immelt promotes green products through his company’s ‘Ecomagination’ initiative, which brings together products from GE’s different businesses that are either intrinsically green - like wind turbines - or have been certified as being more competitive and producing fewer emissions than whatever else of that sort is on the market.
- Sunlit uplands
Wind and solar power are flourishing, thanks to subsidies, increased efficiency and reduced costs, as well as reduced carbon liability.
“If the carbon price and subsidies rise, (renewable energy’s) prospects should be good. But wind and solar are not as vulnerable to politics as the carbon-free technology that, in many ways, has the most potential to free the planet from fossil fuels: nuclear power.”
“As security and climate concerns rise, nuclear power may be coming back. New plants are needed to show whether they can be more cost-effective than the previous lot. And it looks as though America may build them.”
- Dirty king coal
“Scrubbing carbon from coal-fired power stations is possible but pricey. According to the International Energy Agency, around 15 power plants with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) are being planned and another seven CCS projects are on the drawing board. … At present, academics reckon that it would take a carbon price of around $30 to make sequestration economic. … Despite the tricky economics, the sheer abundance of coal is an argument for pursuing CCS. And if it can be made to work, it has a certain poetic circularity: the carbon extracted from the earth as fossil fuel shall return unto the earth whence it came.”
- The drive for low emissions
“Worldwide car ownership is growing around 5% a year, so if emissions from cars are to be cut, engines will have to become dramatically more efficient, or there will have to be a technological breakthrough to replace petrol with a clean fuel. Now that governments seem to be getting serious about emissions, car and fuel companies are getting serious about finding less polluting alternatives.”
- The final cut
“These days business is full of enthusiasm for combating climate change. That is a good thing, but there are risks. … It cannot be done unless all rich countries take the first step. They need to set an effective carbon price, and show the developing world that they can do so without ruining their economies. It wouldn’t be a solution to climate change, but it would be a start.”
Also included are an audio interview with Economist editor Emma Duncan, and links to further articles.
Source: The Economist .