Nathan Myrvold, former Microsoft exec, kajillionaire, and all-round polymath genius type, used to worry that environmental activists might actually inspire a dramatic transfer to clean energy. Now, having crunched the numbers himself, he promotes it vigorously, reports David Roberts at the online publication Grist. Myrvold built models to capture the global temperature effects of clean energy transitions, varying transition speeds and technologies. He assumed expected economic growth and limiting greenhouse gas carbon dioxide levels to 450 ppm, itself not a guaranteed safe level. Co-authored by respected climate scientist Ken Caldeira, and recently published in Environmental Research Letters, the findings are grim. The energy transition will be slow to affect carbon dioxide levels significantly, slowed by the oceans, which slowly both absorb and release massive amounts of heat. The energy needed to build clean-energy infrastructures will create more carbon dioxide emissions. Even if emissions reduce rapidly, temperatures will rise temporarily, a global warming hangover of our fossil fuel binge. Barring big reductions in population or consumption, we need to dramatically cut emissions, starting NOW, and, says Myrvold, forget about natural gas – it’s not clean enough to cut emissions fast enough.
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