Idan Ofer pointed me to a great article in The Financial Times by Martin Wolf where he summarizes and puts into perspective the latest World Energy Outlook report by the IEA. The entire article is well worth reading, but I want to highlight a few points from it...I do recommend not to read this post before you go to sleep, you will not be able to.
Our world will still rely on fossil fuels till 2030 and will need 50% more energy than it does today even if we can assume a significant ongoing reduction (1.8% per annum) in the energy needs per unit of production.
China and India alone will need 45% of that growth in demand, which I view as extremely conservative. Since we all see China coming in the rearview mirror, I wanted to highlight India for a change. Check out the graph on the top as you can see the Indian giant has not been awakened yet. If you've been to China and India you know that India has not yet begun the infrastructure boom that is ahead of it. If you read the press you also know that while China's east coast has now "joined the OECD" as far as spend levels and quality of life (not accounting for quality of air), India is getting a middle class across the country, and the hi-tech boom is creating millions of families with means for white appliance and cars. Try to imagine what happens when the orange bar reached the size of the red bar, and they compete for growth...
The flip side of the energy consumption is obviously emissions and the predictions are we will see CO2 emission level jump up 50% within the next 2 decades instead of decrease. That is an optimistic scenario (reference scenario) that assumes half of the emissions come from US, Russia, India and China. What happens to Europe? what if Africa is fixed?
The only solution we have is to start investing heavily into alterantive systematic frameworks that can change drastically how we think. The systems need to be able to scale to solve an entire demand wedge, or an entire emission wedge. It is not enough to play with feel good technologies anymore if they cannot scale to the needs, even if we need to make radical assumptions against the current inertia in the markets. This inertia sends us to the wrong places in the world to look for th wrong short term solutions to a problem that is by its nature a long term issue.
It took 300 million years to fill up the planet with its fossil based battery - we cannot solve the problem of its depletion into our atmosphere within 300 days, using $300M or for that matter 300,000 soldiers. We need to start thinking collectively as humanity for a change on how we will address this problem with massive resources, and with an ability to marshal all our efforts in the same direction by getting over petty discussions and pushing aside short term interests governming the discussion.