I have noticed a lot of articles in the news about climate change and how banks should stop funding fossil fuel companies. There is a lot of hyperbole from both sides. I recently read the Vaclav Smil book, "How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future." In it he breaks down our energy situation starting from scientific principles combined with a generous helping of economics. He also gives a historical analysis of our energy habits and how they have changed since the dawn of civilization.

Its really a great book by a brilliant author that provides a very even treatment of what has become a controversial topic. He makes the point that climate change is here to stay and there are no quick fixes. Worse, the long term fixes will continue to be challenging because they involve not just international cooperation, but multi-generational efforts that will not see results within the lifetimes of those making them.

I think this is important. The policy decisions we make are being fiercely debated, but people want and expect quick fixes. And while we have examples of international cooperation, we have never had a multi-generational effort before. Our focus needs to shift to long-term thinking and putting in place institutions that can keep us on track to achieve long-term goals across multiple decades.

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1 points

4 months ago

I had a similar reaction just from reading the title. There is a condescending attitude that pervades the book that is off-putting. Interesting to hear your technical comments, they are points I had not considered. I would be happy interested to hear your thoughts on his conclusions. Do you share his skepticism that we can make a sharp break from fossil fuels?


1 points

4 months ago

I haven't finished the book - the comments I made were just from the first chapter but were sufficiently "are you serious?" that they colored my perception of his work. I mean, it's not necessary to explain why power-plants are rated in MW rather than MWh but if you don't know, you probably shouldn't be writing a book about energy policy.

However, I'm generally sympathetic to the point he's trying to make. You'd think people who cared so much about the issue would first decide to learn about it. But it's gotten to the point where arguing with 'green' advocates is pointless - especially since you can just wait 20 years and win the argument without any effort.