The End We Start From
This is the sixth entry in my modestly-titled series of posts on “The Future of Humanity”. The initial post is here.
The argument so far
In these posts, I have highlighted reasons why humanity is unlikely to muster the necessary political will to confront the climate crisis that is cooking our planet. Yes, we have made some important progress developing solar and wind energy sources, but our overall progress to date has been far short of what is required. After 50 years of increasingly dire warnings, we have failed to lower our greenhouse gas emissions, we have failed even to lower our rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions (source), and we are still dependent on fossil fuels for powering 80% of the world’s energy needs.
I believe we need to take these failures seriously. At the core of our inability to change course has been our addiction to a single, uniquely powerful energy source that we discovered, exploited, and will soon use up, all in less than 200 years. The dependence we have formed on nonrenewable, cheap, and energy-rich fossil fuels has enabled us to increase our numbers to almost 8 billion people. It has generated unimaginable wealth for a small number of us, but at an existentially high cost for the rest of us. We know all this.
Our failure to act in the face of mounting evidence and increasingly strident warnings is not simply a function of wrongheadedness or ignorance. We know what we’ve done. We know what we’re doing. We know what the stakes are. Yet we continue to fail, year after year, to make meaningful progress.
Why? In previous posts I’ve highlighted four reasons:
- While we want to transition to an energy infrastructure based on renewable sources like solar and wind, we cannot build out that infrastructure without continuing to burn fossil fuels.
- We have not yet found renewable energy solutions for the 80% of energy consumption that still depends on fossil fuels: aviation, ocean shipping, mining, and high-temperature…