Science, Energy, and Law
From the WaPo (remember, if the link takes you to a paywall, load it in an incognito window). I will borrow my friend Rob’s summary on this:
There is currently an important debate going on. The question is:
Can we transition human civilization to 100% renewable energy (wind, hydro, solar) using only proven technology?
It is a complicated question whose answer has tremendous implications. There is $150 trillion dollars in future investment, and $120 trillion dollars of stranded fossil fuel assets at stake. By the way, getting the answer wrong will determine what percentage of the planet is still habitable in 100 years.
A Stanford Professor, Mark Jacobson, tried to answer that question using an elaborate simulation model. To get his model to run he made alot of assumptions. Many of those assumptions have been questioned. However, the result of the study was essentially, Yes. “No natural gas, biofuels, nuclear power, or stationary batteries are needed,” Jacobson and his colleagues wrote in 2015. Definitely no more investment in new technologies is needed. It is a popular answer because it implies that all we need is political will, and we can save the planet.
Lots of experts in energy think that this answer is totally wrong, and that many of Jacobson’s assumptions were complete fantasy. They published a paper in PNAS and… Jacobson sued them?!?
I haven’t read either paper, but everyone here knows how I feel about computational models and the assumptions that go into them, so I’m inclined to agree with Clark, et. al. that Jacobson was probably being overly optimistic in his assumptions. That is a criticism I often make towards climate models (although my criticism there is that the assumptions are overly pessimistic). It is a perfectly valid scientific criticism. I really can’t stress enough how counterproductive it is to build and run a model with any kind of narrative in your head regarding the output of the model, because that will affect how you set your weights and what assumptions are made. Of course, not having a desired outcome in your head is next to impossible, which is why your publish everything and let others play with it, etc.
As for the lawsuit, I seriously hope the courts just dismiss this out of hand.