RENEWABLE ENERGY AND SURVIVAL
  Karl Arnold Belser
19 April 2016



Several future trends seem probable, namely the global scarcity of water and global warming. The latter, global warming, may result in a sea-level rise and the desertification of many parts of the world. These changes might be accommodated by humanity if there were an abundant supply of energy as I describe in my posts Fusion Power a Water Purification Black Swan (2013), Global Warming as a Black Swan for Survival (2014) and Water, Energy and Health (2015).

I have been placing my hope on the development of fusion energy, but the following articles by Ramez Naam show that renewable energy and energy storage technologies are likely to save the day instead.

1) How Cheap Can Energy Get?  
2)  How Steady Can Wind Power Blow?
3)  How Cheap Can Storage Get ?
4)  How Far Can Renewables Go?
5)  How Cheap Can Electric Cars Get?

In summary these articles show that the world is currently experiencing a revolution in energy - a transformation from fossil fuel usage to solar and wind power usage, and that the amount of power available is sufficient to meet much of the world's energy needs in the future.

I am personally astounded that I did not see this trend. Clearly Elon Musk did. Musk is driving the change with his electric cars (Tesla), his efficient batteries (Tesla) and with solar power (Solar City).  We are just at the threshold today where these new technologies are cost competitive with older technologies.

What might this mean for the future?

Global warming will continue until the average world temperature reaches equilibrium as the world decreases the emission of green house gasses. This could result in a very large rise of world temperature, the melting of much of the world's ice caps, and a significant rise in sea level. The consequence is that most life forms on earth are going to have a hard time adapting,  as Elizabeth Kobert describes in her book The Sixth Extinction.

I think that this means that human beings will survive using solar and wind power instead of plant power. This power will be used to air condition buildings and desalinate water for drinking and irrigation of the deserts. The animals that survive will be kept by humans or modified genetically to allow survival at the higher temperatures and possible higher acidity of the oceans. There will still be survival of the fittest because it wiil simply be to costly to keep every kind of plant and animal alive. There may even be attempts to control human population that could challenge the whole concept of human rights.

There is always the tail risk of nuclear war or some other biological plague that could wipe out advanced life on earth. This latter possibility will have a higher probability because of the fragility of earth in its process of adapting to higher world temperatures. I expect that there will be extensive civil unrest, maybe local wars, as people are forced to adapt and accept a new paradigm for existence..

So the future really is uncertain.
    
Last updated April 21, 2016
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