Solar Power: The Case for Tempered Optimism

How the EIA and IEA underestimated industry’s growth, and why we must still be cautious

The rapid growth of solar power in the 2010s, both in the United States and worldwide, is one of the big success stories in recent energy history. However, as many analysts have pointed out, this success is one government agencies failed to foresee. Why have forecasts consistently underestimated the growth of solar and how can forecasts be improved in the future? This is an important question, since as we think about the options for decarbonizing the world’s energy system, we need to know what different technologies can do.

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Where Does Decarbonization Come From?

Nuclear, Hydro, and Economic Growth

We know the world is not decarbonizing fast enough to reach global climate targets. But it turns out that no single country, anywhere, ever, has even achieved emissions progress of the scale needed.

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Less Than Meets the Eye?

State-Level Decarbonization Led by Energy Intensity Declines

While the recent election has many environmentalists worried that federal action on climate change has hit a dead end, others are finding silver linings in the actions of states and municipalities. Such is the case with this sharp report from Brookings, “Growth, carbon, and Trump: State progress and drift on economic growth and emissions ‘decoupling’” by Mark Muro and Devashree Saha.

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Does Climate Policy Matter?

Evaluating the Efficacy of Emissions Caps and Targets Around The World

The election of Donald Trump has raised deep concern about the future of international efforts to address climate change. President-elect Trump has called climate change a hoax, and has vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, and end the so-called “War on Coal.” It is not yet clear, however, what impact these actions would have upon US or global emissions.

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Climate change is one of the biggest environmental, technological, and developmental risks in human history. Confronting the risks posed by increasing global temperatures requires a deep understanding of energy and agricultural policy, the needs of urbanizing and industrializing populations, and non-climate environmental and public health risks.




Historic Paths to Decarbonization

Climate Legislation

Carbon Taxes and Energy Subsidies


Amy Harder, "Can the US Government Revive Nuclear Power?" November 23, 2014

Tim McDonnell, "Obama's Deal with China Is a Big Win for Solar, Nuclear, and Clean Coal," November 12, 2014

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "The Problem With Energy Efficiency," October 8, 2014

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Allay or Adapt? The Real Climate Change Debate is About Technology," October 2, 2014

Walter Russell Mead, "Fuzzy Math Can'd Hide Shale Boom's Green Credentials," August 21, 2014

Fred Pearce, "World's poor need grid power, not just solar panels," August 5, 2014

Brad Plumer, "There's a big gap between Obama's climate ambitions and his actual policies," June 9, 2014

Jim Manzi, "Energy in the Executive," June 4, 2014

Justin Gillis and Henry Fountain, "Trying to Reclaim Leadership on Climate Change," June 1, 2014

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Global Warming Scare Tactics," April 8, 2014

Jim Manzi, "The New American System," April 2014

Jennifer Dhouly, "Some Say Keystone Fight Distracts From Broader Climate Aims," February 16, 2014

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Environmentalists Made a Big Mistake By Focusing All Their Attention on Keystone," February 6, 2014

Ben Geman, "Greens Still See Red On Nuclear," February 2, 2014

Ben Geman, "Environmentalists Face a Day of Reckoning on Keystone Pipeline," December 30, 2013

CNN Crossfire, "Is Nuclear Power Safe?" Debate Between Ralph Nader and Michael Shellenberger, November 7, 2013

Steve Fuller, "Nintey-degree revolution," October 24, 2013

Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath, "A Climate Policy That Would Actually Work," October 11, 2013

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Can Climate Skeptics Save the Planet?" September 27, 2013