by Judith Curry
The author, Ted Trainer, is Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work, University of New South Wales (Australia) and works in the general area regarding the transition to a sustainable society.Trainer is the organizer of “The Simpler Way: Analyses of global problems and the sustainable alternative society“.
From the Preamble by Trainer:
Below is a critical discussion of the recent IPCC Working Group 3 Report on Renewable Energy. It is being referred to as a report from many experts showing that the world can be running mostly on renewable by 2050.
However I think it is a remarkably unsatisfactory document. Following are some of the main points I detail.
• It is not a report on an examination by the IPCC of the potential of renewables. It is a statement of the conclusions evident in 164 studies, which were not selected at random. The IPCC does not evaluate these studies; we do not know how valid their conclusions are.
• What the IPCC actually concludes is that more than half the studies reviewed project that renewables could provide more than 27% of energy in 2050. Again, the IPCC does not inquire as to whether such projections are sound.
• There is no reference to the studies I know of that doubt the potential of renewable energy.
• Even if this conclusion could be regarded as well-established it would fall far short of solving the greenhouse problem. According to the IPCC’s own figures it would leave us with a higher CO2e emission level than we have now. Yet the Report’s air is one of optimism.
• In the key Chapter 10 most attention is given to one study which concludes that by 2050 70% of world energy could come from renewables. This study, by Greenpeace, is highly challengeable. It does not establish its claims, and it fails to discuss a number of problems confronting renewable energy.
• The brief reference to investment costs is not derived or supported, and is highly challengeable. I sketch three approaches indicating that the cost would be far higher than claimed, and not affordable.
The document is puzzling. It does not do what it should have done, and is being taken to have done, i.e., critically examine as much of the evidence as possible on the potential and limits of renewable energy in order to derive demonstrably convincing conclusions which deal thoroughly with all the relevant difficulties. It does not advance the issue; it just summarises what some others have said, without assessing the validity of what they have said. Most difficult to understand is why it gives so much attention to one clearly problematic study, and allows its highly optimistic conclusions to be taken as those the IPCC has come to. It is likely that as the Report is examined it will damage the credibility of the IPCC.
The Report reinforces the dominant faith that renewable energy can save us and there is no need to question the commitment to affluent living standards and the pursuit of limitless economic growth. In my opinion that belief is seriously mistaken and this report will make it less likely that attention will be given to a sound analysis of our situation and what to do about it.
I should make it clear that my comments do not cast doubt on the IPCC’s statements re: climate science. It is also my view that we should transition to full dependence on renewables as soon as possible…although this will not be possible in a consumer-capitalist society.
I would appreciate critical feedback.
The full 19 page report is [here].
JC comments: This report raises issues that are well worth discussing. That this critical report is authored by a social scientist that is a leader in sustainability thought makes it pretty difficult to defend the IPCC renewables report from any perspective.