Monday, August 15, 2016

Limits to Electric Cars

Bill McKibben has a great article in the current New Republic comparing the fight against global warming to World War II, and one point in this article got me thinking not just about global warming but about more general limits to growth. 

Showing that we can mobilize to control global warming, he writes:
Electric cars take lithium for batteries—but there’s enough lithium just in the known resources for three billion cars, and at the moment we only have 800 million
I did a projection and found that, if world wide car ownership keeps growing at the rate that it grew between 1980 and 2010, we will reach three billion cars in 2062.  At that point, the world's rate of automobile ownership will still be less than half of the current American rate of automobile ownership.

Of course, we will continue to find new lithium resources, and we will undoubtedly invent new types of batteries by 2060, but the projection is useful to show that global warming is part of a larger crisis of growth. As overall consumption continues to grow, it will reach the limits of the earth's ability to provide resources and absorb pollution. We have already passed the limits of the earth's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, and and we are bound to run into more limits if recent rates of growth continue.

I strongly recommend Bill McKibben's article.