“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function” said the late professor Albert Bartlett. We’re just not very good at projecting growth into the future. We tend to underestimate it and then be surprised by how large things have become. Often that’s bad things, ending in shortage or overshoot. But sometimes we underestimate good things too.
As commentators such as Chris Goodall or Jeremy Leggett argue, people have looked at things like solar power and gone ‘only 1% of global energy? It’ll never come to anything!’. But they argue that if you understand the exponential function and the natural logic of growth, renewable energy will overtake fossil fuels. Add developments in battery technology to the mix, and it’s not unreasonable to imagine that solar power will eventually be our main source of energy.
The Financial Times had a special report out last week that looks into this ‘big green bang’, and it’s worth a read. You can also see the key points in this little video, complete with miniature animated desktop wind turbines. I’d like one of those.