Let a Scientist Tell You How the World Really Works

Confessions of a renowned expert on energy transitions

Eugenio De Lucchi


Photo by Bakhrom Tursunov on Unsplash

On climate change, we are all wrong. Or at least, many of us are. We ignore or fail to understand the fundamentals of the global economy. And this is an obstacle to serious climate discussion.

If there is a concept to grasp first, that concept is scale.

The energy transition affects billions of people and trillions of dollars in financing. Not millions. Not billions. Yet, people seem to underestimate it constantly.

We are already talking about net zero emissions by 2050 when we have yet to develop a large-scale carbon sequestration method.

Also, the elephant in the room is that the IPCC is talking about net zero, not zero. The unspoken is about the billions of tons of carbon we will continue to emit.

It is unrealistic to expect we can sequester carbon at this rate on such a scale. Every climate deadline is already out of reach. Any optimistic forecast of decarbonization by 2030 underestimates the complexity of the problem.

The point is that our goals lack a basis of realism. Certainly, goals guide our actions. But goal setting without a dose of realism is misleading.

The United States, for instance, aspires to have zero-emission electricity by 2035. Yet the country has no national grid.

No problem, you might think, they can build one. Sure, but what is involved in building a national grid in a historically NIMBY country?

At the beginning of the millennium, Germany began its decarbonization policy on primary energy supply. Within two decades, the share has dropped by only 8 percent.

In China, coal-fired power gigawatts are growing year by year. And other countries are trying to grab as much natural gas as possible.

With this in mind, how serious are the chances of reaching net zero by 2035?

We have known about global warming for more than 30 years. Yet emissions have been growing year by year.

There is a whole list of things we could do. Instead, we prefer watching the world burn and constantly repeat that it is a…