Vaclav Smil at Yale Environment 360:
Clearly, to conclude that we will be able to achieve decarbonization anytime soon, effectively, and on the required scale runs against all past evidence.
The problem is that rather than take a clear-eyed look at the enormous challenges of phasing out the fossil fuels that are the basis of modern industrial economies, we have ricocheted between catastrophism on one hand and the magical thinking of “techno-optimism” on the other.
In recent decades we have multiplied our reliance on the combustion of fossil fuels, resulting in a dependence that will not be severed easily, or inexpensively. How rapidly we can change this remains unclear. Add to this all other environmental worries, and you must conclude that the key existential question — can humanity realize its aspirations within the safe boundaries of our biosphere? — has no easy answers. But it is imperative that we understand the facts of the matter. Only then can we tackle the problem effectively.