Are we reaching a positive climate change tipping point?

May 6, 2015 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

A quiet revolution? China is planning to have more than double the wind power capacity of the whole of Europe within the next five years.

Are we tipping the right way? One of the great environmental stories is of how catastrophe can creep up and be noticed only when it is too late to act. Examples range from the sudden, inexplicable collapse of bee colonies, to ice cores revealing the potential for dramatic climatic upheavals that happen not in millennia or centuries, but the time it takes to pass through a coalition government or two.

It is hard enough to identify tipping or “inflection” points when you are consciously looking, like monitoring the so-called known unknowns of future forest die-back, deep-sea methane release, ice melt and sea level rise. Worse, in complex systems, are the unknown unknowns. All you have is nebulous worry. It’s why we are supposed to obey the precautionary principle relating to any activity which at scale is capable of altering whole systems.

Solar entrepreneur Jeremy Leggett argues in his forthcoming book, The Winning of the Carbon War, that three mostly independent dynamics are at play driving the change. Firstly, the numbers no longer add up in the old fossil fuel model. The costs of new acquisitions become unmanageable in a system that feasts on debt. Secondly, costs in solar and the vital link of a green energy system, battery storage, are plummeting while the sector offers attractive, reliable rates of return to investors. The Swiss bank UBS famously predicted the rapid “extinction” of the old fossil fuel system as battery costs as much as halve over the next five years.

And, finally, there is movement internationally on climate policy. “We are now in danger of winning the carbon war,” says Leggett. ”Would I like to be running an oil company now? Defending their case is becoming untenable.”

Read Are We Reaching a Positive Climate Change Tipping Point? by Andrew Simms in The Guardian.

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Entry filed under: Carbon_Emissions, Climate, Renewables, Resilience.

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