Realism, not rhetoric, must drive the climate discussion – by Jeffrey Simpson (Globe and Mail – December 2, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

bout 80 per cent of global energy consumption is based on fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. This consumption is the major reason for global warming that produces climate change. Reducing the share will take a long time; eliminating fossil fuels completely is a pipe dream.

Fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – will be with the world for a very, very long time because they are abundant, cheap and reliable. Alternatives such as solar and wind and tidal power are more expensive and produce energy only intermittently.

The idea that renewables will any time soon replace fossil fuels is greenwash, to turn the meaning of a common environmental word on its head. Renewables are growing in importance in some parts of the world, but they are far, far from replacing fossil fuels.

It is said, correctly, that about 13 per cent of energy today worldwide comes from renewables, and the share is growing. But this 13 per cent exaggerates the impact of what we think of as renewable energy, because it includes burning wood, charcoal and animal dung, as anyone who has visited India can tell from the acrid smell in the air.

Renewables would of course include nuclear energy, but most (not all) environmentalists detest nuclear power. Getting a nuclear power plant built in most western countries is difficult to impossible, so fierce is local reaction. (Germany is shutting down its reactors.)

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