The First step in any major system reconstruction is to define the purpose, the objective, the ultimate goal. This is the responsibility of political leaders who must consolidate scientific evidence and stakeholder preferences into a clear goal. Around the world, most politicians are punting because:
· They are confusing objectives (clean energy) with popular preferences (nuclear, renewables).
· They do not understand that an interim goal (20% renewables) can interfere with an ultimate goal (zero-emissions).
The International Panel on Climate Change advises us that society will ultimately need a large (80-95%) overall reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions. A large overall emission reduction goal should not be uniformly allocated across all energy sectors; this would be like an across-the-board-fiscal cut without priorities. A large overall emission reduction goal should be allocated to set a zero-emission requirement for electricity so that technologies like electric cars can become useful.
Even climate change deniers should support the ultimate goal of zero-emission electricity because fossil fuels are a finite resource. Finite fossil fuel has much higher value for niche applications like aircraft fuel, plastics manufacture, coke for steel…
Pace has cost consequences. Should climate change threaten man’s existence, the pace can be accelerated at higher cost. Should climate change be merely inconvenient, the pace can be relaxed to lower cost through attrition and scheduled replacement. Yet the ultimate outcome is inevitable; today’s investments should be consistent with the goal of:
Zero-emission electric power