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The implication for climate change and peak fossil fuel of the continuation of the current trend in wind and solar energy production

  • Leggett, L. Mark W.
  • Ball, David A.
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    Climate change, and more recently, the risk of fossil fuel production being unable to keep pace with demand (peak fossil fuel) are both considered as risks to civilisation, or global risks. In an initial empirical analysis, this paper attempts to answer the following questions, which have often been posed but have not, to our knowledge, been answered empirically at global level. At which date, if unaddressed, will the risks become critical? Given that the substitution of fossil fuels by wind and solar energy is often proposed as a solution to these problems, what is its current aggregate growth rate and is there a plausible future growth rate which would substitute it for fossil fuels before the risks become critical? The study finds that the peak fossil fuel risk will start to be critical by 2020. If however the future growth rate of wind and solar energy production follows that already achieved for the world mobile phone system or the Chinese National Expressway Network the peak fossil fuel risk can be prevented completely. For global warming, the same growth rate provides significant mitigation by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels to zero by the early 2030s.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421511008998
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 41 (2012)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 610-617

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:41:y:2012:i:c:p:610-617
    DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2011.11.022
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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    1. Jacobson, Mark Z. & Delucchi, Mark A., 2011. "Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1154-1169, March.
    2. DeCanio, Stephen J. & Fremstad, Anders, 2011. "Economic feasibility of the path to zero net carbon emissions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1144-1153, March.
    3. Nel, Willem P. & Cooper, Christopher J., 2009. "Implications of fossil fuel constraints on economic growth and global warming," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 166-180, January.
    4. Delucchi, Mark A. & Jacobson, Mark Z., 2011. "Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part II: Reliability, system and transmission costs, and policies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1170-1190, March.
    5. Bardi, Ugo, 2009. "Peak oil: The four stages of a new idea," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 323-326.
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