Deep Decarbonization

Wherever the oil, coal, or gas industry is a large economic player, politicians typically are afraid to tell the truth about the need for low-carbon energy. “Brave” politicians who tell the truth about climate change are found mainly in countries that do not have a fossil-fuel industry.

NEW YORK – Have a look at what happened around the world this past month. Australia’s heat wave filled headlines when temperatures reaching 45° Celsius disrupted the Australian Open tennis tournament. California’s extreme drought forced the governor to declare a state of emergency. Major floods in Indonesia killed dozens and displaced tens of thousands. Beijing’s coal-induced smog forced people to stay in their homes, closed highways, and diverted flights. Such events are daily warnings to the world: wake up before it is too late.

We have entered the Age of Sustainable Development. Either we make peace with the planet, or we destroy our hard-won prosperity. The choice seems obvious, but our actions speak louder than words. Humanity continues on a path of ruin, driven by short-term greed and ignorance.

Much (though not all) of the global environmental crisis stems from the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy system. More than 80% of all primary energy in the world comes from coal, oil, and gas. When these fossil fuels are burned, they emit carbon dioxide, which in turn changes the Earth’s climate. The basic physics has been known for more than a century.

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