...that everyone who thinks Net Zero not only will be easy but painless and wildly profitable is peddling moonshine. Here’s the reality: "The most important fact is that during [the recent] decades of rising concerns about global warming the world has been running into fossil carbon, not moving away from it.... As a result, global emissions of CO2 increased by more than 60% since 1992, setting yet another record in 2018. Historians of energy transitions are not surprised by this development, as history shows that neither the dominant sources of primary energy nor the common energy converters can be displaced rapidly and completely in short periods of time." Scientists say.
This blast of reality comes from Vaclav Smil, a well-known expert in energy and environmental science at the University of Manitoba. His article provides a detailed and realistic survey of how the global economy actually gets its energy (as opposed to the dream world version too many people subscribe to in the pampered and sheltered world of western newsrooms) and the barriers standing in the way of any scheme to change that over the next few decades. And he discusses how past transitions in energy supply have taken place, explaining why they are such slow, costly and laborious processes. His conclusion:
[The] verdict –- based on the history of past energy transitions, on the unprecedented scales of the unfolding shift, on the limits of alternative pathways, and on the enormous and immediate energy needs of billions of people in low-income countries –- is clear. Designing hypothetical roadmaps outlining complete elimination of fossil carbon from the global energy supply by 2050 (Jacobson et al. 2017) is nothing but an exercise in wishful thinking that ignores fundamental physical realities. And it is no less unrealistic to propose legislation claiming that such a shift can be accomplished in the US by 2030 (Ocasio-Cortez 2019). Such claims are simply too extreme to be defended as aspirational. The complete decarbonization of the global energy supply will be an extremely challenging undertaking of an unprecedented scale and complexity that will not be accomplished –- even in the case of sustained, dedicated and extraordinarily costly commitment –- in a matter of few decades.