26 February 2014

Energy Development and Poor Nations

Dan Sarewitz (ASU) and I have an op-ed just out in the Financial Times. Here is how it starts:
Having failed to stem carbon emissions in rich countries or in rapidly industrialising ones, policy makers have focused their attention on the only remaining target: poor countries that do not emit much carbon to begin with.
My Twitter feed is aflutter with policy wonks debating the pluses and minuses of multilateral energy development aid and investment. There are good arguments to be had of course on all sides. The key difference as I see it is that all of these wonks are benefiting from the profligate consumption of fossil fueled energy while they have these debates.

It is great to say that we need to bring on line carbon-free energy -- and we should. It is also pretty easy to say that new carbon-intensive energy development should be limited if you are benefiting from already-existing carbon-intensive energy while we wait for alternatives, rather than living in dire energy poverty. You can see this trade-off discussed in the form of an exchange between Andy Revkin and Bill McKibben that I relate in The Climate Fix.

There is no case to be made here in my view. So long as countries such as the US are 87% fossil-fueled, UK 87%, Germany 83% (data from BP in 2012), there is little basis for expecting poor countries to develop any differently.

Have a read of our piece, we are happy to hear your reactions.