Climate change is threatening our planet. We are seeing more frequent drought, hotter heat waves, rising sea levels, and warming oceans. Wildfires and severe weather events are becoming commonplace. Some changes in our climate are unprecedented in thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. Some of the changes are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.
There is no doubt that the changes have been set in motion by human activity. Human action has the potential to determine the future of climate change and the planet for good or ill.
International experts agree that we need to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels in order to avoid the worst outcomes to our climate. This is the goal of the Paris Agreement of 2015 and was adopted by 196 countries. We need to reach net-zero carbon by 2050 to achieve this goal.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual report, World Energy Outlook 2021, last week and it calls on world leaders to ramp up efforts to tackle climate change. The report, usually released in November, was released early in anticipation of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland scheduled for the first two weeks in November.
According to the report, investment in clean energy and infrastructure projects needs to triple over the next ten years, and about 70% of that investment needs to flow into developing countries. The Paris Agreement affirms that developed countries should provide financial assistance to less wealthy countries so they can build renewable energy capacity. The IEA urges leaders to increase their climate pledges and initiate policies to make sure they are acted on.
Failing to invest in mitigating climate change will cause volatility in the energy market. We have already seen energy prices rising worldwide. Demand for energy is increasing with the economic recovery after the pandemic lockdowns and there hasn’t been enough investment in renewable energy to meet this demand.
The ambitious transition goals toward renewables have some easier wins. The IEA states that 40% of emissions reductions can be accomplished with wind or solar power, limiting gas leakage and improving efficiency. These initiatives effectively pay for themselves. The report also indicates that its more aggressive targets would double the anticipated 13 million jobs created worldwide by the existing pledges.
The report concludes with the statement that we are in uncharted territory with the need for a massive transition from fossil fuels and coal to clean energy sources, and it may not be a smooth transition. It is urging world leaders to support and implement transitions that are “secure, people-centered, affordable and rapid.”