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We’ll always have the Sun: solar energy and the future of humankind

We’ll always have the Sun: solar energy and the future of humankind

Above, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) speaks to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) in the movie “Casablanca” (1942). Here, the sentence has been a little changed. In the film, the phrase refers to “Paris”, not “The Sun”. But in the debate on the future of civilization, there is only one certainty: we’ll always have the sun.

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet. Support us to keep digging where others fear to tread.

In this eight contribution to the INSURGE symposium, ‘Pathways to the Post-Carbon Economy’, Ugo Bardi, Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence, Italy, reflects on the importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels and how it, inevitably, means we should engage with some form of renewable energy.

But, he points out, while such a transition requires us to recall the fundamental role of the Sun as the primary energy source for all our activities, it also means we will have to re-think and re-do civilization-as-we-know-it. Whatever happens, much of what we have taken for granted in our consumer-centric societies today will be increasingly meaningless in the post-carbon future.

What we do know, concludes Bardi, is that we will always have the Sun: the question remains — what will we, and can we, do with it?


As it becomes clear that we must get rid of fossil fuels before they get rid of us, a question is being asked over and over:

“Can renewables replace fossil fuels?”

Some people have been sufficiently impressed by the rapid decline of the price of renewable energy that their answer is not only, “yes,” but that switching to renewables will be fast and painless. It will come simply as the result of the free market mechanisms, at most aided by a little magic called “carbon tax”. Then, economic growth will continue unabashed in the best of worlds.

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