Stop development of fuel efficient cars (Jevons Paradox)

The IPCC’s latest report is out and creating a lot of fuzz around the globe. Summary of the report : 2 degrees temperature rise seems inevitable, and to stop temperatures from rising over 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels we need to take serious action, and do that very quickly.

After I got over my anger of “2 degrees is going to happen anyways” I started thinking about the adapting, coping and mitigating strategies that pop up everywhere.

Adapting and Coping
Humans can adapt to climate change quite easily because we can add or remove layers of clothing, make adjustments to our houses (air conditioning) and habits (Siësta). For the one billion people to poor to invest in their well being coping is the paradigm. The fact that ecosystems cannot add air conditioners or take of clothes is hardly mentioned. How we are going to live in a world with failing ecosystems is a complete puzzle for me. But since we are optimistic humans and 99% of us will not live to see the devastated planet we are more than happy to engage in…..

Mitigating climate change
Mitigating is taking (in this case) reactive actions to repair something that is broken. What I see happening is that massive amounts of public money will be made available to mega Corporations to develop more fuel efficient engines and coal plants. But there is a problem here, and that’s called Jevons Paradox. This 19th century English economist saw that, as steam engines became more efficient to prevent expenses on coal to explode, the total amount of coal being used INCREASED with engine efficiency, in stead of decreasing. This paradox is rather trivial : as an engine becomes more efficient more people can buy one because operating costs are lower, and so total usage of coal increases. The effects of this paradox were again seen in the oil age.

Stop investing in fuel efficiency
And so we come to my main point : pouring massive amounts of public money into fossil fuel energy efficiency research and development is not going to help us one little bit! If we succeed in making cars twice or three times as efficient as today (very well possible if you ask me) then cars will become affordable for billions of Chinese and Indians. Demand for fossil fuels will soar. The same applies for things like gas turbines and airplane engines, and given the building rate of coal plants in China, coal plants too.

What I want to propose is an outright global ban of further state funded development of fossil technology, be it the mining, storage, transformation or usage technologies. Private (car) companies will of course try to keep market share, and it’s fine if they try to do better, but we must not use public money to help do this. Public funds must be directed towards Fossil Free projects.

It sounds unrealistic at first, and I was confused by my own idea, but it is really the only way forward to mitigate climate change if you really think about it. So it’s OK to invest in new technologies as long as they stay far away from any fossil fuel involvement.

Technologies that have a fixed installed base, and no risk of exponential growth that use fossil fuels can be optimized though. I’m thinking that for gas heaters and furnaces in homes it’s OK to make these more efficient, together with enhanced isolation of buildings. The focus should be on net-zero-energy here too, by the way.

We need to turn our attention to that Yellow Fusion Reactor passing overhead every day screaming : “I’ve powered the human civilization for 50.000 years up till 1750, and I’m willing to do it again!”

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