Half of emissions cuts will come from future tech, says John Kerry

Of course, this being a newspaper headline he didn't actually say that; nothing will stop newspapers from lying in headlines. What he said was something closer to I am told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have. That’s just a reality. What he means by this isn't clear; I think it likely that most of the savings will come from solar panels and windmills, and entirely possible that this will come from boring incremental technological improvements that probably don't really merit the phrase "not yet invented"1. But these are just words, from a politician, so it is probably a mistake to read too much into them2. We won't be using this year's tech in what we install next year, let alone five or ten years from now. I thank KR for the Twit, and for getting the predicatable-response bandwagon rolling with "[I] thought it an unfortunate framing". But then MM kicks in with the equally predictable The Biden administration has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by a factor of two over the next decade. That will have to be done with existing technology  @JohnKerry, and not imagined & untested "future tech". Yawn. Even worse opinions are available, and some sane ones.

Slightly more interestingly, he prefixed this with You don’t have to give up a quality of life to achieve some of the things that we know we have to achieve. That’s the brilliance of some of the things that we know how to do. This too is vague pol-speak (you don't have to give up "a" quality of life, but you do have to give up some others? And you that applies to some-of-the-things; so you do have to give up quality of life for some of the others?) which again shouldn't be over-interpreted but does amount to not scaring the horses I think. My own answer hasn't much changed since How much would we have to adjust our lifestyle to stop global warming? but that was only in 2018.


* If you prefer science, KR has a nice post on new work on temperatures at the The Last Glacial Maximum.
There have been 7m-13m excess deaths worldwide during the pandemic - Economist, modelling to try to fill the yawning data gaps in third world countries like India.


1. Which word "invented" I now discover is yet more made-up stuff from the Graun; FFS, why can't they just tell you what people have said rather than making up things they didn't say?

2. It looks like he was channelling Fatih Birol: However, IEA analysis shows that about half the reductions to get to net zero emissions in 2050 will need to come from technologies that are not yet ready for market; and "not yet ready for market" is a rather better way of saying it. There's also an IEA Press release: Pathway to critical and formidable goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 is narrow but brings huge benefits, according to IEA special report; 18 May 2021. But not everyone is happy with the IEA claiming to be first (or indeed the details of what they say). It does include "These include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects", despite my doubts.


Phil said...


William M. Connolley said...

A case in point. Are EV's "old tech", because they already exist, or "future tech", because they will undoubtedly evolve in a decade?

Tom said...

In estimating how our lifestyles might change in the next 29 years, it might profit us to look at how much our lifestyles have changed in the last 20 years.

Just off the top of my head, massive internal migration in China and the diffusion of access to the internet were perhaps as dramatic as anything postulated by the amount of climate change the IPCC says we are expected to see or that Michael Mann wants us to avoid by 2050.

And women's hairstyles are dramatically better, from my point of view.

Phil said...

How do we tell the difference between "boring incremental technological improvements" and "inventions"?

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

If you want a good look at what is required to get to netzero, you really should read Bill Gates's book How to Avoid a Climate Catastrophe, which I recently reviewed. He looks hard at what can be achieved by wind and solar and what cannot. Better still, he takes a close look at costs, which he call Green Premiums, of individual measures toward the goal. Gates thinks that looking at what can be accomplished in the next decade can be counterproductive in the longer run, for example, switching coal to natural gas now makes big short term gains but saddles us with infrastructure that will produce carbon for forty years.

I read a lot of "cutting carbon is easy" stuff, but it isn't. Gates, unsurprisingly, thinks in terms of dollars and results, which for me was a breath of fresh air.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

Also, Gates looks in detail at technical gaps - technologies that need to be invented or perfected to get to net zero. You might want to remember that he made his fortune by seeing and exploiting technical gaps.