Killing fossil fuels to halt global warming is the greatest challenge we face. We now have a masterplan of what we must do when – and there’s no time to delay
TURN on the nearest switch. You won’t notice anything different; that is kind of the point. Yet in many places, there is a better chance than ever that the electricity coming out of the socket was generated by clean, renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines.
That is progress, of a sort. In most countries, however, most electricity still comes from climate-polluting, fossil-fuel sources. Your heating, too, almost undoubtedly uses fossil fuels, as does your car, if you have one. Most goods you buy require fossil fuels to make them and transport them to the shop or to your front door. And if this is the world you live in, you are a lucky one: access to affordable, reliable, convenient energy of any sort is far from a given in many parts of the globe.
That is the background for an energy revolution that needs to happen over the next three decades if we are to hit net-zero carbon emissions, and limit global warming to a “safe” 1.5°C. “The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in May, as he unveiled the agency’s landmark report Net Zero By 2050.
That report contained few surprises about what we need to do. The big two questions remaining are whether we will actually do it, and what sort of world we end up making in the process.
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