Robert Samuelson writes:
“From 2003 to 2050, the world's population is projected to grow from 6.4 billion people to 9.1 billion, a 42 percent increase. If energy use per person and technology remain the same, total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions (mainly, carbon dioxide) will be 42 percent higher in 2050. But that's too low, because societies that grow richer use more energy. Unless we condemn the world's poor to their present poverty -- and freeze everyone else's living standards -- we need economic growth. With modest growth, energy use and greenhouse emissions more than double by 2050.
The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.”
While engineering and morals are involved, Samuelson misses the heart of the matter. As Philip Wylie points out at the end of his ecocatastrophe novel The End of The Dream, there is an irreconcileable clash between capitalism, which produces consumption-driven societies, and a sustainable form of civilization.
Encouraging conservation and replacing fossil fuels with other fuels only slows the inevitable. It doesn't forestall it.