Transitioning from an energy system dependent on fossil energy will require an energy revolution if the world is to achieve the UN goal of a 2 degree C limit. Energy expert Vaclav Smil notes that past energy transitions take multiple decades to achieve. Accelerating the business as usual timeline for transition will take a focused effort and considerable political will.
In the figure below note that as of 2012, all sources of energy use were on the rise except for nuclear, with coal showing the steepest rise since 2000. It’s also important to note that past trends while carrying tremendous inertia do not necessarily continue. Exponential rates of change such as in the solar and wind markets, if sustained, have short doubling times. Policies can have a dramatic impact on realized emissions by instituting performance standards. National or state goals are being set altering the rate of renewable energy sources being deployed. Recent examples include Germany and California working toward longterm goals for carbon emission reduction more in step with the required reductions required to stabilize the climate.
Figure 1. World Energy Consumption, BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014. Aside from a slight dip during the global recession beginning in 2008, total energy supply has increased from 1971 to 2012. About 82% of the energy supply was fossil based, with biomass/fuel, nuclear, hydro, wind and solar making up the balance. Explore the Data
Solutions can be grouped into 4 general areas;
1) Improvements in efficiency & whole systems design (see Figure 2 below),
2) Behavioral change and consumer choice,
3) Advances in and deployment of clean technologies,
4) Policies that drive change. - Learn about Policies that Work from our partners at Energy Innovation.
Figure 2 - Whole Systems Design - illustrating a cradle to cradle model of manufacturing and consumption. "Biological and technical nutrients (C2C)" by Zhiying.lim - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
From a carbon emissions standpoint the key factors are population, economic growth, the carbon intensity of energy use, and the energy intensity of the economy. These factors are know as the Kaya Identity. For a hands on activity to gain a sense of how these factors interact to produce annual global emissions of CO2, try this sample problem.
Along with advances in technology and adoption of existing clean energy options, education is paramount. An educated citizenry on topics like climate & energy literacy has the ability to make informed energy choices and consider those choices in relation to their understanding of how the Earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activity. Improved education on these topics requires effective Climate Communication.
Along with advances in technology and adoption of existing clean energy options, education is paramount. An educated citizenry on topics like climate & energy literacy has the ability to make informed energy choices and consider those choices in relation to their understanding of how the Earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activity.
To this end, we post quarterly Scientific Summaries, which review and synthesize articles on some of the latest advances in climate and energy policy, technology, and scientific breakthroughs. We publish a public archive of these quarterly reports as an educational resource.
Improved education on these topics also requires effective communication. We proudly partner with Susan Hassol's Climate Communication, which provides training for scientists on how to be reach out and communicate more effectively with the public; along with Hal Harvey's Energy Innovation which educates decision makers around the world on urban sustainability, power sector transformation, and energy policy solutions.
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