Maggy Wassilieff, a regular reader, draws our attention to a paper published at ScienceDirect (pdf, 677 KB), Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems, by BP Heard et al.
This paper offers insights whichever side of the DAGW argument you find yourself on. It adheres rigorously to the ideas of removing fossil fuels and of ensuring that their replacements fully and affordably supply the increasing energy requirements of the globally burgeoning middle classes. Security and affordability are the sole criteria by which a replacement for fossil fuels could be judged feasible, yet are sadly neglected amongst the emotional claptrap that obscures the topic. The paper begins by rebuking fellow warmsters* for unjustifiably eliminating from consideration perfectly good fossil fuel replacements before the search even begins:
Much academic, governmental and non-governmental effort has focused on developing energy scenarios devoted exclusively to energy technologies classed as ‘renewable’ (mainly hydroelectricity, biomass, wind, solar, wave and geothermal), often with the explicit exclusion of nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage. These imposed choices automatically foreclose potentially essential technologies. In this paper, we argue that the burden of proof for such a consequential decision is high and lies with the proponents of such plans. If certain pathways are excluded a priori, then such exclusions should be fully justified and the alternatives proven. This is rarely the case. [– emphasis added]
The conclusion is sternly resolute in condemning past failures to engage in sensible cost and benefit assessments of energy reform:
To date, efforts to assess the viability of 100% renewable systems, taking into account aspects such as financial cost, social acceptance, pace of roll-out, land use, and materials consumption, have substantially underestimated the challenge of excising fossil fuels from our energy supplies. This desire to push the 100%-renewable ideal without critical evaluation has ironically delayed the identification and implementation of effective and comprehensive decarbonization pathways. We argue that the early exclusion of other forms of technology from plans to decarbonize the global electricity supply is unsupportable, and arguably reckless. [– emphasis added]
A change in approach is required. It would be wise, they say:
to seek optimized blends of all available low-carbon technologies, with each technology rationally exploited for its respective strengths to pursue clean, low-carbon electricity-generation systems that are scalable to the demands of 10 billion people or more. Only by doing so can we hope to break the energy paradox of the last twenty years and permit human development to continue apace while rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
No amount of dim-witted zealotry from Greenpeace, WWF and their ilk, with their hordes of fanatics, can invalidate these penetrating and uncompromising insights from a team that shares their tunnel vision of global warming.
* those who believe humanity is dangerously warming the earth