Saturday, 14 March 2015

The turning point?


Last year, CO2 emissions didn't rise, they stayed the same - this is the first time this has happened in 40 years. I found this announcement very interesting as it might show that the world has reached a turning point. If next year they actually decrease, then we will have reached a turning point in energy consumption.

There are many reasons for this 'stall' in emissions growth. China is investing heavily in renewable energy, in a move away from the coal and oil which has been so polluting their cities.  Europe too is moving to renewables (and nuclear), this may be in part to reduce reliance on imports from Russia and the troubled middle east.

In the UK for example, this push is exaggerated by the declining North Sea reserves and at long last people are seeing past short term oil/gas price fluctuations. Take the recent announcement of plans for several tidal power stations around the UK as an example. Previously, these kinds of projects were dismissed because alternatives were cheaper, and due to marine environment concerns. But now the benefits outweigh the costs in the long term.

The final key point is that, as stated in the BBC report, economic growth can continue without fossil fuels. This is the first time this has been the case since the start of the industrial revolution! As there is an increasing switch to solar, wind and other renewables, jobs will be lost in fossil fuels but created in renewables and they might be starting to balance out.

Now of course the world isn't going carbon neutral for a long time yet, not least because most renewables are not reliable and we'll need either much better batteries/energy storage techniques, or retain a backup supply of fossil fuel powerplants. And then there's aviation. Electric passenger planes are far off but there are interesting developments like Airbus's E-fan and of course, solar impulse.

Overall it's an interesting time! We'll have to see what the result of the 2015 climate change summit is. And then there's nuclear fusion, but that's a whole other article!



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