Archive for category Carbon Pollution

Economics Driving the Clean Energy Revolution

The fossil fuel era, one of the principal drivers of the industrial revolution, is gradually giving way to a new energy future, one in which less energy is needed and what is needed is generated from renewable sources. Donald Trump notwithstanding, this transition is well under way, and will only accelerate in coming years, as humanity seeks cleaner sources of energy and a more harmonious relationship with nature. With the cost of renewables coming down dramatically, and the recognition of carbon pollution as a global waste management problem, more and more capital is being directed into the transition, whether it’s being invested in new solar capacity or in conservation or energy storage.

A 2016 Bloomberg report found that at least $11.4 trillion will be invested in new power-generating capacity over the next 25 years, and 60 percent of that will fund wind and solar power. And that’s just the power-generating capacity; overall, the UN estimates that $90 trillion will need to be invested in the next 15 years to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the promises made in the Paris Agreement.

These are seemingly staggering numbers; the entire world economic output in 2015 was about $73 trillion. But they are also a measure one of the most profitable opportunities in the history of the planet. What we’re talking about is essentially a wholesale conversion from dirty energy to clean energy, from toxic waste to the circular economy, and the recapture of carbon from the atmosphere and the oceans in order to restore soil fertility and feed a world of ten or eleven billion people a healthier diet than most of us consume today.

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Global Climate Deal and the Missing Link

The climate deal fleshed out in Lima, Peru, is that all countries can set their own climate goals [1,2,3]. But will this be effective in preventing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions? Very unlikely, writes Delton Chen (Geo-Hydrologist, Civil Engineer):

deltonDuring the past 250 years of industrial and technological revolution, the primary catalyst for innovation and the fundamental driver of economic growth has been the availability of fossil fuels (i.e. coal, oil and gas). To avoid extremely dangerous climate change, the global economic system must be re-organised at a fundamental level, and the new order must include a social transformation that grows exponentially; otherwise the required mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be too slow to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was put into effect in 1994, and civilisation officially acknowledged that it was ‘addicted’ to fossil fuels. The ultimate aim of the UNFCCC is to prevent “…dangerous human interference with the climate system”[4]. The recent UNFCCC’s meeting in Lima, Peru, provides the latest update on civilisation’s de-carbonisation program, but the results of the Lima meeting signify global action will be further delayed given that nations are only obliged to make voluntary commitments. 

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