Ever since the first Global Climate Meet organized in Berlin, Germany in 1995, until the ongoing COP 28 meeting taking place in Dubai under the Presidentship of UAE President, one theme that has been repeatedly discussed in every climate meet is that the use of fossil fuel, namely coal, crude oil, and natural gas, must be steadily curtailed and ultimately totally eliminated. These fossil fuels emit noxious gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, which are considered the chief villains causing global warming with disastrous consequences for the world.
During the COP 26 meeting at Glasgow and COP 27 meeting in Egypt, several countries, including the USA, China, and India, promised to achieve zero emissions of noxious gases according to a stipulated schedule, with India targeting the year 2070, and the USA and China targeting 2050.
However, the ground reality is that not much has changed, and the production and consumption of fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas are not declining but, on the other hand, steadily increasing. In other words, the targets set for eliminating the use of fossil fuels in earlier climate meetings appear to have all gone for a toss.
In such circumstances, the UN Secretary-General, speaking at the COP 28 Climate Meet, stressed that the plan for a future without the usage of fossil fuels has to be fully implemented; otherwise, there would be no other way to curb global warming. Before the beginning of the COP 28 Meet, he also said that the world appears to have lost its grip over climate control and projected a grim picture of the possible climate disaster in the coming years. The UN Secretary-General pointedly said, “We cannot save a burning planet with a fire hose of fossil fuels.”
At the same time, in the COP 28 Meet, the UAE President proposed embracing the continued use of fossil fuel.
Obviously, the UAE President, who presides over the COP 28 Meet, and the UN Secretary-General totally differ about the future of fossil fuels. Such differing views between these two important leaders in the COP 28 Climate Meet create huge doubt among the world community as to what the future of climate in the world would be.
A careful analysis of the ground reality would show that the desire and expectation of the UN Secretary-General are wishful and utopian, whereas the observation made by the UAE President is appropriate and pragmatic.
There is no difference of opinion in the world that the use of fossil fuel has to be eliminated to achieve zero emissions and protect the global climate. A question arises as to whether it is possible to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuel.
Fossil fuels are the source of energy. As of the present date, the world’s economy would collapse in the absence of the use of fossil fuel, which is the predominant energy source for the world. Fossil fuel is an important source for sustaining economic development in the world and consequently protecting the social structure.
The problem today is that there is no alternative green energy source that would be eco-friendly and adequately available to replace fossil fuel to any significant level.
The alternate sources largely targeted are renewable energy and the generation of green hydrogen for use as fuel.
Renewable energy, namely solar, wind, and hydro power, has limitations as they are seasonal and have low capacity utilization of renewable power projects, less than 25%.
Regarding the green hydrogen project, it is power-intensive, and green power from renewable energy sources would not be adequate to generate a massive quantity of green hydrogen. It would be counterproductive to use fossil fuel-based power for the production of green hydrogen. Further, the production cost of green hydrogen is likely to be much higher than the production cost of grey or brown hydrogen produced from fossil fuel.
The other viable alternative is nuclear energy, about which there are many apprehensions regarding the toxic waste generated from nuclear fuel.
With no tangible solution to eliminate the use of fossil fuel in the foreseeable future, possibly COP28 Meet is taking place in a vacuum. This view is reflected in the speech made by the UAE President.
One option for the world is to reduce the demand for energy in all possible ways.
Technological improvements can be made to optimize energy usage to a limited extent. The ultimate solution is the reduction in energy demand and consequent reduction of fossil fuel consumption. This can happen only by gradually reducing the world population, which would reduce the demand for energy in tune with the population reduction.
It is not out of place to say that human beings breathe out around 3 lbs. of carbon dioxide every day!
As the COP 28 Meet will take place until December 12th, it would be good if one country or another stresses the need to reduce energy demand, advocating a fixation of the schedule for global population degrowth.