July 28, 2021

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7 Years Later, Google Engineers Revise Their Pessimistic Predictions on Climate Change

7 Years Later, Google Engineers Revise Their Pessimistic Predictions on Climate Change
Seven years ago two Google engineers concluded, after four years of study that “Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.” (The authors proposed a R&D portfolio pursuing “disruptive” solutions in hydro, wind, solar photovoltaics, and nuclear power, with one Slashdot reader asking “is nuclear going to be acknowledged as the future of energy production?”)

But the two engineers — still at Google — recently announced “we’re happy to say that we got a few things wrong. In particular, renewable energy systems have come down in price faster than we expected, and adoption has surged beyond the predictions we cited in 2014.”

One of them told IEEE Spectrum “It’s stunning how rapidly things have been moving since the first article was published,”

Experts now have a better understanding of how a variety of technologies could be combined to prevent catastrophic climate change, the coauthors say. Many renewable-energy systems, for example, are already mature and just need to be scaled up. Some innovations need significant development, including new processes to produce steel and concrete, and geoengineering techniques to sequester carbon and temporarily reduce solar radiation. The one commonality among all these promising technologies, they conclude, is that engineers can make a difference on a planetary scale…

Concerned about the pessimistic tone of most climate coverage, the authors argue that wise policies, market pressure, and human creativity can get the job done. “When you put the right incentives in place, you capture the ingenuity of the masses,” says Fork. “All of us are smarter than any of us.”

The Google engineers acknowledge we’ve already seen a plunge in battery prices to lows not predicted until 2050. (Along with cheap natural gas prices, this cut America’s coal consumption in half, lowering emissions.) And fossil fuel consumption has been reduced thanks to cheaper electric heat pumps and electric cars. Other suggestions from their article include:
Cleaner air travel (including clean hydrogen-powered planes) New forms of nuclear power Climate policy (including carbon pricing strategies like carbon taxes)
“So, engineers, let’s get to work.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.