The economy of the world is now like an out of control train rushing towards a precipice so fast it is becoming increasingly difficult to get off. The great global corporations that now control the world have escaped the control of governments. Capitalism is like a ferociously energetic monster. It is in its incredible productive energy that the secret of its power lies, but without a leash it is a wild monster roaming the savannahs aimlessly. Like a species that destroys itself by hunting to death the prey it feeds on, it is committing suicide by destroying the planet that is its resource base. The people who run these great corporations are not necessarily the greedy egotists their critics often depict. But they are in competition with other corporations as powerful as themselves. Any failure to increase profits results in shareholders moving to their more successful rivals. In a choice between slow death which is still uncertain and quick death, which is immediate and absolutely certain, it is not surprising such enterprises choose to keep on making profit at all costs. Moreover, the oil companies already have enough proven reserves to destroy the earth at least three times over. But most of that still untapped oil has already been traded on the futures markets. To leave it in the ground would cause a global financial crisis of unparalleled extent.
In any case, is it really realistic to think that renewables could supply the world’s energy? Even if it were, and even if the UK, for example, took the lead and made a determined effort to quit oil other nations would not, so what is the point? There is every point. Renewables can do the job. Anybody who has solar panels will know how vast the energy is that pours into our roofs every day. PV tiles, even in our climate, could supply something like 40% at least of domestic energy use. Inshore wind is of limited value but it has a place. Offshore wind really can supply. The wind farm in the Bristol Channel, now abandoned, would have supplied enough electricity for a million homes. Six of these really would electrify the UK. It is true that the wind does not always blow but it is rare that if it is not blowing at one end of the UK it is not blowing at the other. Nevertheless, wind will always need the backing of fossil fuel power stations. But carbon capture will enable us to use coal, which can be liquefied into gas, on the relatively small scale we would need it if most of our energy were being supplied by renewables. Tidal and wave power is abundantly available in the UK. There is also hydro power. Large institutions like hospitals and schools could effectively tap geothermal energy. On top of that it is estimated that ten square acres of pv tiles enhanced by mirrors in the Sahara could in theory supply the whole of Europe. With the invention of long distance cable this has become entirely feasible.
To bring all this about would require a vast investment. It would need the kind of national effort that only occurs usually in war. But the fact that it does occur in war means that it is possible to do. We have no technical problem. But we do have a great problem of political will. This applies to the whole world, however, not just to the UK. What is needed is for one country to go all out and set an example, and then others would follow. It seems incredible that when so many scientists are warning of a global climate catastrophe so great it will dwarf all previous human miseries by far, and because of our inaction this terrible fate will fall upon our children, and even now, although it is very late in the day indeed to make a serious attempt to halt climate change yet nevertheless even now it can still be done with enough determination, it is incredible so many people are so complacently turning a deaf ear. It is incredible. But so it is. What can we do about it?