The pareto principle

While the IPCC gives us its latest and maddening conclusions, a flock of well-meaning people draped in their virtue still want to blame us for our irresponsible behavior. We are thus increasingly urged to adopt a more virtuous behavior for the environment, even to prepare to change our way of life to move towards a “0 CO2 emission” model. All this is obviously not without meaning, but it is necessary to question the order of priorities.

In the meantime, a recent study published by Environmental Research Letters and carried out by a group of researchers from the University of Colorado indicates that just 5% of thermal power plants in the world are responsible for 73% of CO2 emissions related to electricity production. They analyzed data from 29,000 power plants operating in 221 countries on fossil fuels in 2018.

They ranked power plants according to their carbon dioxide emissions and identified the “worst of the worst”. They are mostly found in eastern Asia (mainly China), India, the northeastern United States, and central and eastern Europe. These “super polluters” have common characteristics. They all run on coal and are all very energy inefficient consuming a lot of coal to generate electricity. It is doubtful that the situation will improve this year because with the rapid increase in electricity consumption with the recovery of the global economy and soaring natural gas prices, coal consumption will most probably reach record levels this and next year.

For the authors of the study, replacing these power plants must be a priority of the energy transition. It will be much more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions around the world than any other strategy. One of the challenges for climate activists is knowing exactly who to blame.

To cite just this example, rather than soon forcing people who can't afford it to store their diesel cars, sometimes their only way to get around, or even to work, to buy (still) expensive electric cars, why not apply the Pareto principle in this case, and therefore close the most polluting power stations. Should common sense be dictated to us by the coal lobby, which was very active in particular under the pathetic Trump presidency?