Jacobsen defended his estimates of the potential for new technologies and expanded use of existing sources like hydroelectric power and argued that Clack and his colleagues failed to account for the “true costs or risks” of nuclear energy, carbon capture, and fossil fuels.
Renewables just hit a milestone in the United States, hitting 10 percent of monthly power generation, while nuclear energy has foundered economically and carbon-capture technology has yet to achieve widespread commercial success. On a yearly basis, renewables now make up about 7 percent of US electric power, according to federal statistics.
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But Clack said it took more than three decades for solar panels and wind turbines to gain the ground they have.
“This great and brilliant achievement has resulted in 7 percent of electricity from these sources,” he said. “Electricity is 39 of energy. So the scale of the problem is gigantic.” Scaling up a newer technology like hydrogen fuel cells would be more difficult, and Jacobsen’s study “woefully miscalculated” the amount and speed that other technologies could be deployed, he said.
“To do all these in parallel, as they suggest, is harder than the current seen trends in wind and solar, because they existed at commercial scale,” Clack said.
Clack said most other studies come to “vastly different” conclusions, and he and his co-authors felt compelled to set things straight.
“We want climate change to be solved,” he said. “It has to be done rapidly, and if we get it wrong, the consequences are catastrophic. We do not get another go at this.” But he added, “We need sound science that helps policy makers choose the right actions to achieve a near-zero emissions economy by mid-century.”
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