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“We think we have the science, speed and scale to put carbon-free fusion power on the grid in 15 years.”
— Robert Mumgaard, CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems (
PhD in Nuclear Physics, MIT). Source: The Guardian.

One of the great oddities of our time is the widespread belief that our CO2 emissions will destroy the Earth in the 21st century. The thin foundation for these stories is the IPCC’s worst-case scenario, RCP8.5 (often misrepresented as a “business as usual scenario”). In this we burn off most of the Earth’s available oil – then turn to an alternative. In RCP8.5 the fuel of the future is the fuel of the 19th century – coal. The result would be catastrophic. It’s also unlikely, and widespread belief it is probability is stunning achievement of modern methods of propaganda.

In the real  world, the technology of energy generation and use advances rapidly. Driven by steady improvements, solar tech is taking a growing share of the electric generation market. A decade ago, electric cars were considered a technology for the distant future. A 2009 report by the National Academies of Science said that even plug-in hybrids “are unlikely to have much impact before 2030.” We have already leaped over that stage, with many of the world’s major car companies now offering all-electric cars (~1% of the market) – and the others rolling them out in the next five years.

Even bigger advances might lie ahead from mind-blowing research on the frontiers of science. Such as potential for power from low-energy nuclear reactions. As usual in US history, government funding leads the way. As usual in our times, the most advanced research is done by the military. Such research, known to the public by the misleading term “cold fusion”, dates back a century. Wikipedia has its usual good summary (with supporting links). The era of serious research began roughly a decade ago, and went public in 2009 with an eight-page report by the Defense Intelligence Agency: “Technology Forecast: Worldwide Research on Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions Increasing and Gaining Acceptance.”

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Category: Science