I was due to write about food and farming this week, but global events call for urgent comment. Our hearts go out to the people of Japan in their time of crisis and suffering. The triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and radiation leak is the greatest disaster to face the country since the Second World War. Meanwhile across North Africa and the Middle East the desire for democracy is palpable, but is being met by the forces of reaction and repression in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. Again our hearts are with the people wanting a peaceful and democratic future, whoever and wherever they are.
These two issues have profound implications for global energy policy. The costs, security of supply, safety and carbon emissions are all hotly debated. In the light of Fukushima many countries are reconsidering building new nuclear capacity, but if they invest in new fossil fuel plants this will only exacerbate climate change. Meanwhile geopolitical unrest and geological depletion push oil prices up.
Now more than ever is the time for humanity to collectively cooperate and commit to a path of ecological sustainability and global social justice, and at the heart of this must be the conversion of our energy systems to 100% renewables, for electricity, heating and transport. This is a much more achievable objective than often portrayed.
We should listen to energy experts like Gregor Czisch, Jacobson & Delucchi and all the people involved in the Desertec project. Firstly we must stop wasting energy, which we can do by building radically more energy efficient housing, transport and food production systems. Secondly we will need many forms of renewable energy developed in every country on Earth, and thirdly we will need a supergrid to link the areas of easy surplus (hot sunny deserts, windy seas and steppes, good hydro and geothermal sites etc) to the World’s megacities where local renewables will prove insufficient to meet demand.
Oil, coal and nuclear are yesterdays sources of energy: solar, wind, geothermal and water are what we should be developing now.