The NY Times, through blogger Andy Revkin, is pushing Bjorn Lomborg’s alternative-universe “Post-Pollution” solution to global warming — more research and development (R&D). Revkin is also misrepresenting a Center for American Progress report, which is why I am going to debunk this too-little, too-late strategy for the umpteenth time.
As Andrew Light, the lead author of the CAP report, explains, “I think Andy read our piece too quickly” and “I’m disappointed to see once again here the false dichotomy” that “somehow an agreement on CO2 is mutually exclusive with a mechanism to grow clean technology and sustainable development solutions. It’s a completely uninformed view.“ I’ll repost his statement in full at the end.
False dichotomy is what the do-little crowd traffic in, sadly, and it mucks up the debate — see Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy. No, that abbreviated description of the optimal strategy has never been my suggestion for the sequence of investments [!] but for the ratio of spending needed!
See also this post by a leading journalist and climate expert, Robert Collier, noting “The basic message of all these reports is akin to Romm’s mantra: Deploy, deploy, R&D, deploy, deploy — but all simultaneously.” Precisely.
We do need a vast increase in clean energy R&D spending, as I have been arguing for more than two decades. But averting catastrophic warming requires spending several times more on deployment than on R&D.
I would have thought that the recent International Energy Agency report would have made clear to all that aggressive deployment, not R&D, must be where we put most of our money ASAP:
On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.
… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]…. Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”
The IEA is one of the few credible international bodies with a combined global economic and energy model that allows them to come to quantitative conclusions rather than just the hand-waving that dominates most discussions. And by handwaving, I specifically mean this nonsense from Lomborg (Revkin’s comments are in italics at the end):