The Nature article says the climate problem is much greater than forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to rising use of coal in Asian nations, especially China and India, where energy use is projected to double by 2030.
If an exploding population is to have sufficient energy for development, the world’s energy supply will have to at least double in 50 years even if consumption in China, India and elsewhere never rises to the per-capita level seen today in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
At the same time, if the climate is to be stabilized, carbon emissions must fall sharply from current levels. To satisfy both requirements, energy generated without emission of fossil-fuel carbon will have to increase ten fold.
“We’ve gotten this hopelessly wrong,” said Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the authors of the Nature article. The trio also included Tom Wigley of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and Economics professor Christopher Green of McGill University in Montreal.
“If we approach this from reducing emissions we get nowhere,” Pielke said. “The message is, let’s change light bulbs and let’s be more efficient. But let’s do more than that. The solution lies in transformational technologies.”
Unfortunately, U.S. spending on energy research has shrunk by approximately half since 1979, taking inflation into account. Spending on military research, meanwhile, has more than doubled and now amounts to roughly 20 times what is spent on energy research.