Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition

SA: This is such an important paper by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

In 13 well-written pages that clearly present that trying to solve only for climate change will indeed not solve anything. This can be shown in the context of the idea and ideals of a Green New Deal.

“We argue that while the GND narrative is highly seductive, it is little more than a disastrous shared illusion. Not only is the GND technically flawed, but it fails to recognize human ecological dysfunction as the overall driver of incipient global systemic collapse.

By viewing climate change, rather than ecological overshoot—of which climate change is merely a symptom—as the central problem, the GND and its variants grasp in vain for techno-industrial solutions to problems caused by techno-industrial society.

Such a self-referencing pursuit is doomed to fail. As Albert Einstein allegedly said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. We need an entirely new narrative for a successful energy transition. Only by abandoning the flawed paradigmatic source of our ecological dilemma can we formulate realistic pathways for averting social–ecological collapse.”

The authors clearly demonstrate that a reliance on renewable energy to keep things are they are today is completely misguided:

“GND proponents are appallingly tolerant of the inexplicable. They fail to address how the gigatons of already severely depleted metals and minerals essential to building so-called RE technologies will be available in perpetuity considering typical five to 30-year life spans and the need for continuous replacement [17,18,19]. They offer no viable workarounds for the ecological damage and deplorable working conditions, often in the Global South, involved in metal ore extraction [20,21]. Green New Dealers advance no viable solutions (technical or financial) for electrifying the many high-heat-intensive manufacturing processes involved in constructing high-tech wind turbines and solar panels (not to mention all other products in modern society) [22,23,24,25]. The waste streams generated by so-called renewables at the end of their short working lives are either ignored or assumed away, to be dealt with eventually by yet non-existent recycling processes [26,27,28]. Proposals for electrifying the 80% of non-electrical energy demand overlook crucial facts, namely that the national-scale transmission systems and grids required for electrified land transportation do not even exist today, nor is the needed build-out likely given material, energy, and financial constraints [29].”

And then in solid but brief detail, the authors illustrate clearly the limitations of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels in an industrialized economy.

“In short, no RE source or system is viable if it cannot not generate sufficient energy both to produce itself (literally from the ground up) and supply a sufficient surplus for society’s end-use consumption. Currently, no so-called RE technology is in the running.”

Ultimately, trying to keep industrial civilization going is a losing battle, and one that will only make overshoot worse: “Clearly, the climate crisis cannot be solved in isolation from the macro-problem of overshoot—certainly not by using technologies that are reliant on the same FFs and ecologically destructive processes that created the problem in the first place.”

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