Can the world kick its fossil-fuel addiction fast enough?

Apr 25, 2018

By Jeff Tollefson

Making sense of recent energy trends can seem like a high-stakes Rorschach test. Some experts see the boom in renewable energy and the shift away from coal in many countries as evidence that the world is beginning to turn a corner on global warming. Others see simply a continuing reliance on low-cost fossil fuels, slow governmental action and a rising risk of planetary meltdown.

The fact is that both sides are right. Renewable energy is indeed undergoing a revolution, as prices for things such as solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries continue to plummet. And yet it is also true that the world remains dependent on fossil fuels — so much so that even small economic shifts can quickly overwhelm the gains made with clean energy.

So it was in 2017, when, after staying relatively flat from 2014 to 2016, carbon emissions grew by about 1.5% (see ‘A brief lull’). All it took to create that spike was a small rise in economic growth across the developing world, according to a final estimate released in March by the Global Carbon Project, an international research consortium that monitors carbon emissions and climate trends.

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3 comments on “Can the world kick its fossil-fuel addiction fast enough?

  • 1
    flyingfsck says:

    The living fossil tree ferns that made the coal 100 million years ago still exist and are cultivated in gardens as strange exotics. The archaia that made the oil are also still down in the earth’s crust, slowly making more of it. So once we burned most of the coal and oil and killed off the human race in the resulting gloom and murk, these plants and bacteria will flourish again…



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  • @OP – Some experts see the boom in renewable energy and the shift away from coal in many countries as evidence that the world is beginning to turn a corner on global warming. Others see simply a continuing reliance on low-cost fossil fuels, slow governmental action and a rising risk of planetary meltdown.

    There are positive signs at some times in SOME places!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43879564

    Britain has not generated electricity from coal for more than three days – the longest streak since the 1880s.

    The coal-free period began on Saturday at 1000 BST and has continued into Tuesday afternoon.

    Power generated from wind and gas dominated the mix of energy for users in England, Scotland and Wales.

    Just last week the UK grid recorded its first two-day period without using any power from the fossil fuel, which the government has pledged to phase out by 2025.

    That is not correct! Gas is a fossil fuel!

    Coal accounted for less than 7% of the power mix last year, according to official figures.

    However, experts warned that power generated by coal was largely being replaced by gas, another fossil fuel, rather than renewable sources.

    Andrew Crossland, of the Durham Energy Institute, said gas generated 40% of the UK’s electricity and fuelled the vast majority of domestic heating: “As a country we consume nearly eight times more gas than coal.”

    The daily consumption of gas was outstripped by wind on just two days last year, while all sources of renewable energy – including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower – beat fossil fuels for just 23 days of 2017.

    A reliance on gas made the UK vulnerable to the whims of international markets and was “nowhere near clean enough” to meet the UK’s legal targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Crossland said.

    The 2008 Climate Change Act requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% compared with 1990 levels by 2050.

    Hannah Martin, from Greenpeace UK, called on the government to provide more support for onshore wind and solar power – the “cleanest and cheapest energy sources”.



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