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September 3, 2008 |  2 comments |  Print  Your Research  

Alexander  Ochs

Think Tank Analysis: The World Needs a Third Industrial Revolution

Alexander Ochs: This policy report examines the twin challenges of climate change and energy security for the US and Germany, focusing on the third industrial revolution – the revolution that has to occur to transform our current combustion engine-based societies into an energy-efficient and climate friendly world.

The first section is an exploration of the comprehensive challenge of climate change and energy security. The key problem we are facing is that our economic system, as it has developed since the second industrial revolution, is fundamentally built on the consumption of fossil fuels, which are already responsible for the largest share of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If we do not succeed in altering the ways we produce and use energy, we are heading toward a catastrophe.

The second section depicts what a third industrial revolution could look like and what it would need to induce it. The decrease in energy consumption and the increase in energy efficiency will have to be at the heart of this revolution. All sectors of the economy including households, transportation, and businesses must be made more energy efficient. The potential of producing energy through the exploitation of non-fossil fuel sources are enormous. Hybrid battery technology will be able to “break our oil addiction, cut driving costs, and reduce pollution.” Technological change, however, is happening too slowly. Governmental action will have a key role in accelerating technology innovation, development and deployment.

The third section, after comparing many costs and benefits, concludes “the benefits of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of not acting.” Society as a whole, not just the individual using the commodity, has always paid an enormous price for maintaining a fossil-fueled economic system. For example, the acceptance of energy as a scarce (or at least expensive) resource might well have played a major role in Europe’s current economic success; the opposite would be true for the US. Several myths about how change will be too expensive or about how economic growth leads to greater energy consumption are clogging debates on climate change and energy security. This is getting in the way of urgent action. We will need a patchwork system of regulations and incentives on all levels of political organization to induce an energy revolution.

The final section provides suggestions for how the climate-change dialogue between Germany and the US can be strengthened. Disagreement between the United States and Germany on energy security and climate change has hampered progress for decades. However, both countries are currently witnessing an unprecedented amount of debate on key challenges, and opportunities for transatlantic reconciliation on climate and energy issues will further improve in the next two years. Preparations must be made now for America’s return to an international leadership role on climate and energy. A new, “can-do” attitude is necessary in order to focus on the various benefits of a well-designed policy approach.

Alexander Ochs is the director for International Policy at the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) and founding editor of the Forum for Atlantic Climate and Energy Talks (FACET).

This policy report, “Overcoming the Lethargy: Climate Change, Energy Security, and the Case for a Third Industrial Revolution,” was written for the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. You can read the complete report here.

 
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Unregistered User

September 7, 2008

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1. Energy consumption and production are two different things. The effects of consumption and production must be considered separately. Example: you can produce electricity free of greenhouse gas, and then use it to pump the gas in the atmosphere.

2. The view that climate change and energy as Siamese twins is obviously wrong in any long term perspective.

3. Energy saving cannot be put as a goal. The technological advance is obviously measured by the energy available. Some new technologies will necessarily require greater levels of energy. As an example consider the energy levels required to solve the problem of an efficient protection of the Earth from an impact by medium sized meteorites and comets, a problem that might become much more pressing than greenhouse gas emission.

4. It is irresponsible to put reducing energy consumption as a goal. Especially considering economically growing countries like China.

5. The issues of climate change cannot be solved conservatively by reducing energy consumption. Physically this makes no sense. Our energetic level is far below the level where dissipation of the energy in the atmosphere could cause any significant warming effect. Possible climate change has a chemical nature, for example due to greenhouse gas emission. Correspondingly, the problem must be solved not by reducing energy production, but by increasing it, making viable new technologies of controlling the chemical balance of the atmosphere, as well as new technologies in the automotive and other major contributors to the emission.

6. In a long term perspective climate changes cannot be foreseen. We need technologies allowing us direct and indirect climate control. These will certainly require energy levels far beyond available now. Thus searching for new sustainable energy sources different from fossil must be put in the foreground.

7. It is clear that the new technological revolution, if any, should bring us to a sufficiently higher level of energy production and thus consumption. This production and consumption must have cardinally lesser impact on the atmosphere chemistry at the same time allowing us to control it.

8. As for making gas emission and other environmental side effects a subject of pricing one can only welcome steps in this direction. The biggest problem here is to make such pricing set by market. Presently, in Germany, households are exposed to some environmental pricing disproportionally more than big industry. This makes neither ecological, nor environmental, nor economical sense.

 
Unregistered User

June 9, 2012

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Organic waste often gets covered up and depmocoses anaerobically (ie without oxygen). So in landfill it often releases methane instead of CO2 like it would if it were incinerated. Methane, molecule for molecule, packs a much higher warming punch than CO2 (about 25 times higher is the current best estimate, but recent research suggests it could be even bigger).Also, it's not so much what the waste does, as what it affects further down the supply chain.It takes trees to make paper, and a lot of energy to make paper/glass/metal/etc from raw resources. If you throw away a can then any new cans will need to be made from ore which is very energy intensive.If you recycle the can, this prevents a new one from being made from ore; and recycling saves approximately 95% of the energy for aluminium (it doesn't save as much for plastic, paper and glass, but in most cases you're still better off).Most of our energy comes from fossil fuels, so by reducing energy use you're reducing fossil fuel use and therefore CO2 emissions, which the overwhelming majority of the scientific community says is very important in global warming.
 

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