Thursday, May 18, 2023

The momentum of climate change

 I was thinking of this quote from "Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers":

It didn't make sense. Holly reprogrammed the Drive computer to slow down. Which the Drive computer did. But because they were accelerating so fast, slowing down merely meant they were accelerating slightly less quickly than they were before. However, they were still accelerating. So they were slowing down, but still going faster. That didn't make much sense to Holly either. The only thing that was clear was that by the time they'd slowed down enough to be actually slowing down, in the sense of going slower - rather than the kind of slowing down that meant they were actually getting faster, albeit faster more slowly - they would already have broken the light barrier. Which was impossible. 

At times, everything that is happening with carbon emissions feels like this.  We're putting in more renewables, we're adopting EVs, per capita emissions are leveling off (but population is still rising), per GDP emissions are leveling off (but GDP is still rising).  So, when are we going to start seeing our emissions peak, and then decline (and then get to zero).  By the time we slow down enough to be actually slowing down, rather than slowing down meaning we're still going faster, but more slowly, how does this all play out?

It's important to recognize that a lot of progress is being made.  And things can seem to happen slowly, and then all at once.  Five years ago, there was one EV on my street.  Now a dozen homes around me all have EVs.  Heat pumps have been known to be extremely efficient for decades, but now people are actually buying them in a meaningful way.  Renewable penetration, both in North America and Europe, but also in India and China, is increasing in a material way, because renewable energy is significantly cheaper, and continues to get that way.  It takes a long time to move a ship, but we are getting it done.