A socially oriented non-financial development institution and a major organizer of international conventions, congress, exhibitions, business, social and sporting, public, and cultural events.

The Roscongress Foundation is a socially oriented non-financial development institution and a major organizer of international conventions; exhibitions; and business, public, sporting, and cultural events. It was established in pursuance of a decision by the President of the Russian Federation.

The Foundation was established in 2007 with the aim of facilitating the development of Russia’s economic potential, promoting its national interests, and strengthening the country’s image. One of the roles of the Foundation is to comprehensively evaluate, analyse, and cover issues on the Russian and global economic agendas. It also offers administrative services, provides promotional support for business projects and attracting investment, and helps foster social entrepreneurship and charitable initiatives.

Each year, the Foundation’s events draw participants from 208 countries and territories, with more than 15,000 media representatives working on-site at Roscongress’ various venues. The Foundation benefits from analytical and professional expertise provided by 5000 people working in Russia and abroad. In addition, it works in close cooperation with 160 economic partners; industrialists’ and entrepreneurs’ unions; and financial, trade, and business associations from 75 countries worldwide.

The Roscongress Foundation has Telegram channels in Russian (t.me/Roscongress), English (t.me/RoscongressDirect), and Spanish (t.me/RoscongressEsp). Official website and Information and Analytical System of the Roscongress Foundation: roscongress.org.

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12 August 2019

Carbon does not hold back development

In June this year, the popular American futurologist Michio Kaku spoke at the Stalinist Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy in Moscow. He talked about the wonderful future that awaits us in 2050, when the successes of Google, Apple, Microsoft and other corporations mean the internet is everywhere and assume most of our duties. Affordable online education, health care and entertainment in an intellectual and creative economy will bring us long and happy lives.

Not since the time of Nikita Khrushchev have we heard such ideas at VDNkH. Khrushchev promised to build a communist society by the early 1980s, predicting prosperity, accessible education and scientific achievement. However, instead of communism in the 80s they decided to build capitalism. Many people were not happy that the path to prosperity was laden with food stamps.

The predictions of Michio Kaku will probably meet the same fate. And the point, of course, is not that they are too presumptuous or unrealistic — they are in fact super-realistic. In the pursuit of extending our lives, people have already given up much of their personal freedom and will readily give up the rest. Microchip implants in the brain and other organs of your body for the purpose of connecting to the global internet, the collective discussion of dreams and instant access to information stored in the minds of our neighbours — did these apocalyptic ideas fill any of his listeners with dread? No, because it’s not just scientists or plumbers that attend his lectures. And where will we get scientists in the future, if according to Michio Kaku there will be no need to remember anything, because any data will be accessible?

And changes in the labour market, when the quest for ‘perfect capitalism’ is complete and production processes are run by AI technologies, only two categories of workers will be in demand — intellectual scientists and artists, on the one hand, and garbage collectors and plumbers on the other. The audience was not solely made up of scientists and plumbers and did anyone actually find the predictions of the famous futurologist to be terrifying?! And where will scientists come from in the future if, according to Michio Kaku, we will no longer need to remember information due to the full availability of data?

The problem with Kaku’s forecasts is not related to the goals and means of their implementation. Like Khrushchev’s communism, they promise prosperity, less work and a longer life in exchange for letting AI take important decisions (or the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee — it is a matter of preference). The problem is people, who idly believe in promises, and are strongly opposed to restrictions.

Look at the yellow vest movement in France, which flared up following Macron’s promises to make energy production in France even more green. Many protesters, just like Michio Kaku, were proponents of a carbon-free future and the development of green energy technologies and the digital economy.

But in order to abandon coal-fired power plants and increase the share of wind power in the energy balance, the government had to raise fuel prices and increase annual subsidies for the development of renewable energy to USD 8 billion. The people took to the streets, blocked roads and made surprise choices in their election of MEPs to the European Parliament. On top of that, Belgians, Germans and residents of other European countries joined the French protests. But the shift towards green energy did not end there: European leaders, although not so confidently, continue to make plans to abandon fossil fuels to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and reduce their dependence on authoritarian regimes, including no doubt Russia.

Unfortunately for adherents of green energy, achieving these ambitious goals is breathtakingly expensive. According to very rough estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), achieving the conservative goals of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit warming by no more than 2°C in 100 years will require more than USD 5 trillion of annual investment, of which about 3 trillion would be earmarked for transforming energy power generation and energy efficiency. It follows that by 2050, when UN Secretary-General António Guterres would like to see zero greenhouse gas emissions, humanity must spend at least USD 150 trillion to achieve the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

This money can only be taken from the public by raising the price for fuel, heating, building materials, animal products and other goods whose production leads to the production of carbon dioxide, and from industrial companies through additional taxes and tradable greenhouse gas emission quotas.

As for the public, it knows how to fight back and has repeatedly forced governments in Europe to revise their climate plans. Taking money from traditional energy and industrial companies is guaranteed to lead to recession and an investment outflow. This will affect pension funds, inflation will accelerate due to higher tariffs, and the labour market will see big shifts. Industry will be forced to migrate to regions with less stringent environmental legislation, and the de-industrialization of Europe will continue. As Kaku predicts, Europeans will become the home of scientists and plumbers. And in Eastern Europe with its relative lack of high-tech plants and competitive R&D centres, the choice of jobs will be even smaller.

The consequences are clear, but what will we get in return?

The state will focus on replacing traditional power plants with wind farms and solar panels. At first, companies like RUSNANO will do well, subsidies and forced investors will help open new plants, but very soon the builders of renewable energy facilities will be faced with the shortage of suitable land.

According to the estimates of these UN experts, by the end of the century, global energy demand will increase by 300–400%. We must not forget that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in addition to energy-efficient devices, will bring with it a proliferation of various gadgets, the Internet of things and other energy-consuming devices. And your everyday smartphone, which is in constant communication with data centres, routers, transmitters and other supporting equipment, consumes the same amount of energy as your refrigerator. In addition, a billion people who currently do not have access to electricity are hoping that they will have the chance to connect to the grid. There are three billion people who cook on wood stoves who are also dreaming of improving their living conditions. Furthermore, the population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion by the middle of the century. How can this new energy demand be met by wind farms and solar panels?

With an average density of 20 hectares per megawatt for wind farms, to meet only the new energy demand of the global economy in the next 50 years, the whole of Russia would have to be built up with wind farms. And this is only the new demand! As President Putin rightly quipped at the industrial forum in Yekaterinburg, «Will it be nice for people to live on a planet covered with a maze of windmills and several layers of solar panels?» To put it simply, it is impossible to replace traditional thermal generation plants with wind and solar power plants.

But even if you do not take into account the amount of land needed, weather-dependent energy requires expensive infrastructure: high-power energy storage, smart and extended networks (you cannot place a wind farm the size of Omsk in a city, you need to find a windy area somewhere on the coast), and complex equipment that contains rare earth and toxic materials.

This infrastructure is not only bad for the environment and very expensive, but it also leads to energy poverty. According to a study recently published in the American journal Energy Research & Social Science, wealthy people can afford to install individual solar and wind energy generators, who then receive subsidies and reduce their electricity costs, while low-income families have no choice but to use the energy produced by traditional suppliers, which increase utility bills to maintain profitability. As a result, much of the population begins to skimp on electricity use. This effect is noticeable on a global scale, and it amplifies energy inequality.

All these dangers associated with the shift to green energy are well known to scientists. Nobody really expects to achieve carbon neutrality. But, as they say now, based on this hype certain business people who have invested in new technologies receive lots of money.

But there is in fact every reason to be optimistic that carbon neutrality can be achieved. There is another way, more effective and even more green. The fact is that the relationship between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and climate is more complex than we are often led to believe. An increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere accelerates the growth of plants which absorb CO2 as food. According to a study recently published in Trends in Plant Science, an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a proportionate effect on the process of photosynthesis, with plants absorbing the gas at a greater rate. The growth of herbage leads to more abundant crops and helps us feed the growing population of the Earth. Rocks and oceans also absorb CO2, and these play a greater role in the greenhouse gas cycle than people.

According to the Swiss research and technical university ETH Zurich, there are more than 900 million hectares of land on Earth that are not touched by human activity and are suitable for tree planting. Such a mega-forest could absorb 205 billion tonnes of carbon — two-thirds of all carbon emitted by humans into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. On top of that, Russia has the greatest potential for new forests, with 151 million hectares of land. Is it not more humane to focus on sound forestry management, with protection from fires, forest diseases and illegal logging instead of waging an economic war on the public? And do not forget about energy efficiency. Maybe then we will have the money to build a brighter future than that forecasted by Michio Kaku?

The article was written by energy analyst Dr. Alexander Kondratenko,
PhD in history.

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