Imagine a world where 70% of the 7.4 billion population lives in its developing countries. Imagine a world where more than 70% of the population is considered to be of low income. Imagine a world where, in one continent alone, most of that continent’s 1.2 billion population live in its underdeveloped nations. Now imagine raising the living standard of all these people to first world standards. Imagine how much energy it would take to provide them just the basics, like sufficient food, housing, healthcare, clean running water, indoor plumbing, sewage disposal, … Imagine how much more burning of fossil fuels would be required to provide enough energy for these basics. Twice as much as now? More than twice?
Imagine, too, that the planet where all these 7.4 billion people live is in the midst of a global warming crisis that is raising temperatures to the point that more and more people needed air conditioning in order to cope with the increased temperatures, and that the 30% more energy needed for the additional cooling came from burning fossil fuels; the single greatest cause of global warming. Any additional burning of fossil fuels will increase the rate of global warming, which will further reduce crop production; will further reduce the availability of fresh water; will further increase temperatures — making more and more places uninhabitable; will further increase suffering and deaths worldwide. Burning more fossil fuels to compensate for the damage done from burning fossil fuels isn’t a viable option. Wouldn’t it be far better to spend our a major portion of our wealth on efforts to develop alternative energies?
Over the past 150 years, the first world nations, and of late China, produced most of the greenhouse gases now causing global warming. Do these nations have a special responsibility to house, feed, and clothe those displaced by global warming? A responsibility to find enough sources of alternative energy (renewable energy sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gasses that contribute to anthropogenic climate change) to raise the living standard of 5 billion?
What is now known as alternative energy was the biggie of energy sources before the discovery of fossil fuels. Alternative energy never really went away. Of late, we’ve seen a lot of innovation. The water wheels of yesteryear morphed into huge hydroelectric dams. Europe’s wind mills almost went away, but have come back as 90 meter wind turbines. Solar (photovoltaic) cells, known about since the 19th century, have really came along with the development of, and advances made in, semiconductors. Of late, much of the advances in alternative energy have been made in harvesting solar energy (wind and wave are solar energy, too). Hydrogen fuel cell technology seems poised for take-off. Is there enough alternative energy? These guys https://www.rethinkx.com/energy think so. So do a lot of others.
There’s still a lot of room for innovation, for new thinking. First world nations need to redouble their efforts to get off fossil fuels. A really good start would be to divert subsidies now being given to the fossil fuel industry. According to The Environmental and Energy Study Institute https://www.eesi.org/papers/view/fact-sheet-fossil-fuel-subsidies-a-closer-look-at-tax-breaks-and-societal-costs
But rather than being phased out, fossil fuel subsidies are actually increasing. The latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report estimates 6.5 percent of global GDP ($5.2 trillion) was spent on fossil fuel subsidies (including negative externalities) in 2017, a half trillion dollar increase since 2015. The largest subsidizers are China ($1.4 trillion in 2015), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion). According to the IMF, “fossil fuels account for 85 percent of all global subsidies,” and reducing these subsidies “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.” An Overseas Development Institute study found that subsidies for coal-fired power increased almost three-fold, to $47.3 billion per year, from 2014 to 2017.
Speaking to the power of lobbying, ownership by politicians, and ownership of politicians; might say. It’s not like the fossil fuel industry has options; this is their last chance to sell the stuff. The alternative/sustainable folks need to up their game. Imagine if $3.2 trillion had instead been spent on developing alternative energy in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Big steps are being made in energy storage; especially conceptually. Producing hydrogen from water using solar or wind power would be a great way of storing energy, be a great battery. With alternatives, batteries are key. Batteries of all forms, including chemical, mechanical, hydrogen, … are rapidly advancing. All good.
There is still a lot of room for innovation on the usage end. Improved efficiency, new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking. Old ways, too. Ever heard of Yakhchāl, circa 400 BCE? Some modern day scientists have, and are having a blast with it.