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Check out this figure. It shows actual energy consumed by fuel type worldwide. If you look at the chunk provided by low-carbon technology (nuclear, hydro, and other renewables) in 2015, note that the world demand for energy has increased by this much since just 2005. That’s right. In ten years low-carbon energy use has grown 20%, but energy demand has grown by 125% of all low-carbon energy consumed in 2005.

credit: vox.com

credit: vox.com

This means we are using more fossil fuels every year. Even though renewables have high rates of growth, they are growing from a small base. Even Germany is struggling with its renewable goals because it simultaneously wants to stop using nuclear power.

With population growth and increasing affluence in many parts of the world, we can expect energy demand to keep growing. The obvious choice for many countries is fossil fuels because they are cheap and dispatch-able.

The truth is that a significant fraction of people will never opt (= pay more) for intermittent power or consume less of certain things (e.g. air conditioning, washing machines, mobility, and food). What we really need is a radically cheaper energy source that can do everything that fossil fuels can but without the CO2 emissions. Then we need the infrastructure and expertise for it to grow incredibly fast over the next several decades.

Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to get more people out of poverty and educated. It might take only a few geniuses to come up with the miracle technology. We know lowering consumption and artificially increasing the cost of energy could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but our economic and social systems prefer to ignore this. With the added strategy of fostering innovation in the energy sector, we stand a better chance.

Hopefully, we can make more miracles happen instead of just waiting for one.