Really, Really Amazingly Good News from the International Energy Agency (IEA)
All we do at Happy Eco News is good news. But some stories are better than others.
I have very good news from the leading authority on energy trends and how they affect climate.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that the 1.5° global warming number is still within reach and is doable by 2030, in line with the Paris Accord.
Why is this important? Two reasons.
The first is the 1.5° average number. It doesn’t seem like a big number when you think of it in a daily or weekly weather cycle. But because it is an average for the world, 1.5° is the upper threshold before catastrophic tipping points occur. 2° means polar ice caps disappearing, 3° means desertification of large tracts of current farmland, and 4° is a post-apocalypse type of future.
We must keep it below 1.5°, or we are in for major climate and economic collapse.
The second is business. The IEA is the most respected, most capable, and longest-running entity in energy trends. The IEA reports are commonly adopted by government policymakers and corporate interests to direct their investments and strategic planning. The reports are conservative in their forecasts. The IEA simply report on energy trends and have a very good, if conservative, track record. Their projections are known to lead policy decision-making in high-level circles.
In the most recent report, Net Zero Roadmap: A Global Pathway to Keep the 1.5 °C Goal in Reach, they discuss the future of energy. The fossil industry has coopted the definition of the word energy as if oil is the only form of energy, so let’s be clear. The IEA is not only about oil; they are about all of it, big-picture energy.
In the report, they explain what the energy mix will look like in the upcoming years and how it will affect climate change, and here’s a spoiler alert, folks: the future isn’t fossil fuels.
The transition to clean energy is happening now; it is running under its own power and happening much faster than we ever anticipated.
It turns out that entrepreneurship and innovation are delivering more ways of achieving net zero in terms of carbon reduction and carbon sequestration than expected, and free-market economics are forcing down the cost to do it. We no longer need regulations, subsidies, and tax breaks for clean industry; these businesses are already growing exponentially! It’s kind of amusing when compared to the carbon economy, which, despite record profits, continues to benefit from trillions of tax dollars each year.
Historically, the IEA has underestimated the speed of the movement towards clean technology. After every report since the Paris Accord, , the IEA has had to revise its trends and estimations on renewable energy contributions upward, meaning that they are somewhat conservative in their predictions.
But now they are beginning to include exponential growth of free market solutions in their forecasts instead of relying only on begrudging adherence to government commitments.
But here’s the best part: It’s likely a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Capital investment in renewables and non-fossil energy production will follow the IEA‘s announcement of the exponential growth of clean tech. Of course, they will; the IEA is usually right. Then, as these sectors grow, competition and scale will continue to make return on investment greater and greater and greater, furthering investment and reasearch, fueling exponential growth. The future truly is bright.
The bottom line is that the IEA says it’s cheaper and more effective to save the world than to let the traditional focus on high-carbon extractive industries destroy it.
Better yet, the investment in clean technology won’t have to be mandated by governments anymore; it will be driven by economics, not policy. The mechanisms and financial tools are in place, and entrepreneurs are predicting a gold rush of opportunity.
We have the technology for production, and according to the report, the distribution grids are in place or currently being built to handle the increases coming from the exponential growth of renewable energy installations, meaning the infrastructure will be in place and ready to distribute it.
It’s great news, but the reality is it is too close. Barely squeaking in under the wire is the opposite of a decisive win. And the truth is humanity can’t afford to lose.
Back in 2010, an elder and I were discussing climate change. In those days, there was still plenty of discussion over whether climate change was real or a myth perpetuated by environmentalists; whether it existed and how damaging it might be.
The elder’s words stuck with me and eventually formed the basis for my postion on the debate. A farmer, his words were simple and common sense: “It may be real, and it may not be real, but the fact is that the consequences are to great to risk it.” He continued: “What if the scientists are right?”
Nobody I know would gamble with their children’s or grandchildren’s lives, so why do it with the climate, which is essentially the same thing?
By getting to this point where we are today, so close to the destruction of our climate and natural cycles, we have pretty much assured that some tipping points will be reached. It is unfortunate, but some natural feedback loops will be disrupted and will not be recovered, some species will be lost, some people will have to relocate.
But no yet. It is still not too late.
Thankfully, there is reason for hope. The IEA report, and others like it, show the 1.5° global warming number is still within reach. We are going to make it. The tide is changing; we will have a planet that will support humans and the nature we rely upon for life.
But the fight is not over. Now now more than ever we need to encourage companies and governments to do more. 1.5 is not enough, lets avoid the tipping points altogether.
Email or call your favorite business or politician and make sure your voice is heard.