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Friday, April 18, 2014

Paul Krugman: Salvation Gets Cheap

The "price of solar panels has fallen more than 75 percent just since 2008":

Salvation Gets Cheap, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ... has begun releasing draft chapters from its latest assessment, and ... the reading is as grim as you might expect. ...
But there is one piece of the assessment that is surprisingly, if conditionally, upbeat: Its ... the incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power...
Before I get to that..., however, let’s talk for a minute about the overall relationship between economic growth and the environment.
Other things equal, more G.D.P. tends to mean more pollution. ... But other things don’t have to be equal. There’s no necessary one-to-one relationship between growth and pollution.
People on both the left and the right often fail to understand this point. ... On the left, you sometimes find environmentalists asserting that to save the planet we must give up on the idea of an ever-growing economy; on the right, you often find assertions that any attempt to limit pollution will have devastating impacts on growth. But there’s no reason we can’t become richer while reducing our impact on the environment. ...
The sensible position ... has always been that ... if we give corporations and individuals an incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they will respond.

What form would that response take? ... One front many people didn’t take too seriously ... was renewable energy. ... And I have to admit that I shared that skepticism. ...
The climate change panel ... notes that “many RE [renewable energy] technologies have demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions”... The Department of Energy is willing to display a bit more open enthusiasm; it titled a report on clean energy released last year “Revolution Now.” That sounds like hyperbole, but you realize that it isn’t when you learn that the price of solar panels has fallen more than 75 percent just since 2008.
Thanks to this technological leap forward, the climate panel can talk about “decarbonizing” electricity generation as a realistic goal — and since coal-fired power plants are a very large part of the climate problem, that’s a big part of the solution right there. ...
So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be. The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. What could go wrong? Oh, wait.

    Posted by on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 01:52 PM in Economics, Environment | Permalink  Comments (61)

          


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