Efficiency without renewable energy is not sufficient
Recently George Monbiot argued that humanity must figure out a way to leave the fossil fuels in the ground:
Most of the governments of the rich world now exhort their citizens to use less carbon. They encourage us to change our lightbulbs, insulate our lofts, turn our televisions off at the wall. In other words, they have a demand-side policy for tackling climate change. But as far as I can determine, not one of them has a supply-side policy. None seeks to reduce the supply of fossil fuel. So the demand-side policy will fail. Every barrel of oil and tonne of coal that comes to the surface will be burned.
In other words, things like fuel economy standards and efficient appliances won’t help unless cars and appliances are powered by renewable energy (solar/wind/geothermal).
The problem might be more manageable if we divide it into three parts:
- Active energy sources — wind/solar/geothermal.
- Passive energy sources — mostly in buildings, as detailed in David’s recent excellent post .
- Design — as in how to design cities, towns, and the their transportation systems.
Once we have moved to renewable electricity and passive systems as the source of almost all of our energy needs, then we can keep the rest of the fossil fuels in the ground.