A WIDELY read cover story on the impact of global warming in this week’s New York magazine starts ominously: “It is, I promise, worse than you think.” It goes on to predict temperatures in New York hotter than present-day Bahrain, unprecedented droughts wherever today’s food is produced, the release of diseases like bubonic plague hitherto trapped under Siberian ice, and permanent economic collapse. In the face of such apocalyptic predictions, can the world take solace from those who argue that it can move, relatively quickly and painlessly, to 100% renewable energy?
At first glance, the answer to that question looks depressingly obvious. Despite falling costs, wind and solar still produce only 5.5% of the world’s electricity. Hydropower is a much more significant source but its costs are rising, and investment is falling. Looking more broadly, the share of wind and solar is minuscule.