Camp was late and to pass the time I reread some recent articles on the worldwide demand and production of electricity, all of which leads me to the conclusion that we’re not really burning less fossil fuels and are a far cry from being on a path to net-zero emissions. This was the case even before Russia’s horrific war and the realignment of global fossil fuel politics which will only exacerbate the whole issue of extractions, supply and end-use.
According to the International Energy Agency, IEA, global demand for electricity surged 6% in 2021 and was especially intense in China where it jumped by about 10%. So far, renewable sources of electricity haven’t kept up, although they grew by 6% globally while coal fired generation leaped 9%. Carbon dioxide emissions rose by 7%, reaching an all-time high, after having declined the two previous years. In the US, coal fired generation spiked by 19% in 2021. The good news is that rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity should cover most of the growth demand in the near future.
Just then Camp walked in and plunked down in his customary seat. We commiserated about the depressing war in the Ukraine and how it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I mentioned the fact that our emissions from energy are higher than the previous years and remain too high and are not sustainable if we want to limit global warming.
‘As of New Year’s Eve 2021, half of Germany’s remaining nuke plants shut down for good, to be replaced by renewable energy from wind and solar. An emotional public outcry after the Fukushima disaster prompted that hasty decision.’
‘They would be better off replacing the coal and gas generators which will keep burning until 2038 and are dependent on Russian natural gas,’ I said.
‘Yes, at great geopolitical and environmental cost.,’ Camp said.’
‘By eliminating nuclear power instead of coal and gas, Germany has released an extra 350 megatons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the past decade,’ I said.
‘Most European nations, except France and Great Britain have decided to abolish nuclear power. I hope they sleep better, knowing they will not be irradiated in the near future. To do this when the major threat to the atmosphere is carbon dioxide makes no sense and is fear over science and common sense.’
‘Right now, there are 441 commercial nuke plants worldwide, providing about 11% of electricity,’ I said, having just read this.
‘We homo sapiens are our own worst enemy and our success is our downfall. We are so smart, we outwitted ourself. It’s the great human folly. It is now evident that we are on a trajectory towards extinction of much of the life on this blue planet, both terrestrial and aquatic, by ignoring the science and burning ever more forests and fossil fuels. We probably have already reached the point of no return.’
‘We can argue that the causes for global warming are not in our control but the fact remains that the changes in the atmosphere, oceans and arable soils are happening at an unprecedented pace,’ I said, ‘and it is also true that volcanic eruptions and tectonic plate shifts have massive impacts on the ecology and atmosphere of mother earth.’
‘But 8 billion humans and their insatiable need for energy and food have an ongoing negative effect on the planet we all call home The dire consequences are already manifesting themselves in extreme weather, evident here in British Columbia last year with unprecedented floods, heat domes, wild fires and atmospheric rivers.’
‘As individuals we are frustrated and feel helpless and as communities and nations, we are lethargic behemoths, divided and opposed to one another, unable to find the means, the commitment, the courage and the will to alter our behavior and habits,’ I said, feeling a tad pessimistic.
Camp finished his first pint, wiped his mouth and said: ‘We, the modern people, have become so used to our comfortable life style that we cannot and will not give it up and the rest of humanity covets what we have and wants the same level of comfort and luxury as we have here. ‘
‘But how can they be denied what we take for granted?’
‘Damn the torpedoes, we, the people, are not changing course and are crashing forward into an uncharted future.’
‘Did I hear crashing into the future?’ Vicky said while swapping our empties for a couple of full ones. ‘I want you two to relax and enjoy the view, before the apocalypse crashes into you two and I’m stuck with the tab.’
‘No worries, we’ll stick around for a while, long enough to pay the bill.’ Camp grinned.