This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

Post

Existential Threat

Ed Reid's picture
Vice President, Marketing (Retired) / Executive Director (Retired) / President (Retired) Columbia Gas Distribution Companies / American Gas Cooling Center / Fire to Ice, Inc.

Industry Participation: Natural Gas Industry Research, Development and Demonstration Initiative Chair, Cooling Committee (1996-1999)   American Gas Association Marketing Section...

  • Member since 2003
  • 720 items added with 23,752 views
  • Aug 9, 2022
  • 574 views

The United Nations and several national governments have begun referring to climate change as an existential threat, meaning a threat to the future existence of life on earth. This is a political position intended to draw attention to the issue and incite fear in the population. Several national polls suggest that the effort has not been particularly successful, as the general population rates climate change as a relatively low-level concern, despite a coordinated government and media campaign.

You would think that, if global governments actually believed that climate change driven by CO2 emissions represented an existential threat, they would be united in aggressive efforts to eliminate CO2 emissions. However, numerous nations, led by China and India, are embarked on concerted efforts to build new coal-fired generating stations, which would increase their CO2 emissions and global CO2 emissions as well. Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam are also pursuing new coal power plant construction, as are Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Clearly, these countries believe that failure to develop their economies is a greater threat than climate change.

The EU and the UK, which have been at the forefront of the “global” CO2 emissions reduction efforts, are reviewing their plans to close coal-fired generators and are considering reopening some closed coal-fired generators. Several of these nations are also reconsidering their plans to close nuclear generating facilities in the face of growing energy shortages and rapidly rising energy prices.

The US is still pursuing an effort to eliminate coal-fired generation by 2030 and to eliminate all fossil-fueled generation by 2035. However, there is growing concern in the US that fossil-fueled generating capacity is being eliminated far faster than it is being replaced with renewable generation and storage. This issue is projected to result in increased rolling blackouts in the US this summer, as cooling demand increases. This issue will only become of greater concern as electricity demand increases as a result of the effort to electrify the entire economy and completely eliminate the burning of fossil fuels for any purpose.

The efforts in the developed nations to eliminate fossil fuel use in favor of renewables plus storage is an existential threat to industries in those nations, which are already faced with rising energy prices and reduced energy availability. Many industrial plants in the UK and the EU have closed or significantly reduced production as the result of increased energy costs and restricted energy availability. This issue is likely to expand to the US, Canada and Australia if current national policies remain unchanged.

Meanwhile, China is investing heavily in the metals and cement industries, which are major fossil fuel users and CO2 emitters. The increased availability of low-cost coal-generated electricity to power the metals industries in China and the availability of coal for cement production would render those industries in nations reducing CO2 emissions uncompetitive in global markets with lower-cost Chinese metals and cement.

These developments would leave the US, the UK, the EU, Canada and Australia heavily dependent on China for metals and cement, as well as for the rare earth minerals necessary for wind generators and solar cells. Arguably, this growing dependence on China is a greater existential threat than climate change.

Ed Reid's picture
Thank Ed for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Discussions
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Aug 10, 2022

One can't properly talk about threats in simple binary terms. By definition, a threat is something that hasn't yet happened, and may or may not come to pass. There's an associated probability, presumably greater than zero, but less than 100%. It's a matter of risk assessment.

Humans are really bad at assessing abstract risks. "Abstract" meaning anything with which they have no direct experience. We need experience to calibrate our future response -- assuming we survive. But that's the problem with existential threats; if they materialize, we don't survive. 

Karl R. Rábago's picture
Karl R. Rábago on Aug 10, 2022

So maybe it would be more accurate (and engaging) to address climate change as an existential CHALLENGE - the need to reorient economies, communities, and lifestyles away from climate-changing behavior on behalf of present and future generations?

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »