For example, advances in battery technology have led to lower prices for electric vehicles, leading to greater adoption among drivers. The cost of lithium-ion batteries and of wind and solar energy fell by as much as 85 percent between 2010 and 2019. In many cases, they are now cheaper than fossil fuel-based electricity. This helps industrialized countries, such as the United States, to actually reduce emissions. (The country also burns more natural gas, which emits less than coal, but still isn’t good for the climate because it’s a high-carbon fuel.)
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The report also notes improvements in industry and manufacturing, such as advances in sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence that have boosted energy management. Heat pumps, another reduction technology mentioned in the report, could help reduce the energy needs of buildings — which are responsible for 40 percent of the U.S. energy consumption — because instead of relying on fuel-fired furnaces, they exchange heat between the inside and outside. Since they are all-electric, they can be powered by solar panels on the roof.
So in some ways the energy future looks bright. “In many areas, such as wind and solar, the technology exists to decarbonize pretty quickly, I’d say 90 percent of the electrical grid,” said environmental economist Mark Paul of the New College of Florida, who was not involved in the study. new IPCC report. That potential, he says, “comes from investing money, but it also comes from regulation. We’ve seen many states pass clean and renewable portfolio standards to essentially force utilities to go low-carbon. “
Paul adds that the price of solar energy has fallen by 99 percent in recent decades, giving more and more people access to the technology for their homes. (While the report notes that the price for EVs has fallen overall, it’s also true that the price of stickers varies by region and that they remain unaffordable for many drivers.)
But while a mix of technologies that use renewable energy or are more efficient can help us become decarbonised, they still make up only a small part of global energy generation. The report notes that in 2020, photovoltaics accounted for just 3 percent of the global electricity produced, wind power about another 7 percent and EVs only 1 percent of the global passenger car fleet.
The report concludes that the bottleneck is investment. While more money is flowing into climate mitigation, it is not nearly enough. For Paul, it’s best to think of these expenses as seed money. “Contrary to the traditional story of economists, decarbonization will be perceived as an economic boom,” he says. “There are plenty of jobs to be found. But it’s a real problem that we don’t necessarily have trained personnel on hand right now for things like renovating buildings.” That’s the second bottleneck, he says: There aren’t enough people ready to install technologies like solar panels and heat pumps, or retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient.
“Germany has fairly well-developed vocational training programs, but here in the United States we have been woefully underinvested in the profession,” says Paul. “As a result, we have a real shortage of skilled workers to help us decarbonise as quickly as we would like. Of course, that problem can indeed be solved if the government invests in both creating these jobs and training workers.”
This post Technology can solve the climate problem, but not without help
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