• This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Earth.Org Newsletters

    Get focused newsletters especially designed to be concise and easy to digest

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

As greenhouse gas emissions reach an all-time high, experts warn that the carbon budget we have left to keep global warming below the Paris Agreement 1.5C threshold is much smaller than previously thought.

Human-induced global warming rates are at their highest level in history, bringing humanity closer to reaching the 1.5C of global warming much sooner than expected, new research suggests.

Scientists behind a new study published in the journal Earth System Science Data on Thursday found that the world is rapidly running out of its carbon budget, the cumulative amount of carbon dioxide we have left to emit before we exceed our desired global temperature increase. 

Currently, experts estimate that only about 250 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) can be emitted to avoid an accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) that would push global temperatures beyond the key limit of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This is down from the previous 2020 estimate of 500 billion tonnes of CO2. 

According to the researchers behind the paper, at the current annual rate of GHG emissions, the carbon budget would run out well before the end of the current decade. Emissions have been at an all-time high of about 54 billion tons/year for about ten years, leading to an unprecedented increase in human-induced warming of over 0.2C per decade. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) measurements, atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels peaked at 424 parts per million in May, a value that is more than double the amount of atmospheric CO2 before the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

Speaking with the Guardian, Joeri Rogelj, co-author of the new study, said the report serves as a wake-up call: “The years of continued high emissions as the updates the remaining carbon budget mean that by now we should be doing more,” he said. 

“That means either moving forward the global goal net zero date for CO2 from around 2050 to about 2035, or cutting much deeper by 2030.”

Not all is doom and gloom, however, since considerable progress had been made in the deployment of green technology around the world in recent years and advancements in the clean energy sector indicate that there is still hope that humanity will change the course before the impacts of global warming become irreversible.

Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that investments in clean technologies – such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, and low-emissions fuels – are forecast to reach $1.7 trillion this year. In comparison, $1 trillion will go into fossil fuel projects. Demand for planet-warming fossil fuels is also expected to plateau in 2025, indicating that the world is on track to move on to cleaner sources of energy.

The “unprecedented momentum” in renewable energy manufacturing and global spending on clean energy was triggered by several factors, including a strong rebound in economic growth following the Covid-19 pandemic, effective climate policies such as the US Inflation Reduction Act, and rising fossil fuel prices triggered by the war in Ukraine.

World leaders are currently in Bonn, Germany, to prepare for the long-awaited UN climate commit, COP28, which will take place this November in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is seen by many as one of the last chances for the world to contain global warming and fulfil the Paris Agreement goal after governments failed to commit to phasing out all fossil fuels at last year’s COP27.

Despite controversies over his appointment, COP28 chief Sultan Al-Jaber, who is also the head of oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), insists that the 1.5C goal is “non-negotiable” and on multiple occasions pledged to phase out fossil fuel emissions – rather than production. His statement, however, effectively leaves the door open for the continued production and use of fossil fuels, which the UAE, this year’s COP host, has repeatedly described as “key” components to a smooth energy transition.

You might also like: Most Planetary Boundaries Beyond ‘Safe and Just Limit’, Scientists Say

Schools across the US East Coast cancelled outdoor activities and New Yorkers were urged to stay indoors as out-of-control Canada wildfires continue to burn millions of hectares of forest.

Heavy smoke from wildfires that continue to burn huge tracts of forest across Canada has drifted south, blanketing New York and neighbouring states as far south as Mexico in a thick, orange haze.

Air quality has reached unhealthy levels in Canada and several US East Coast regions, prompting air pollution warnings for more than 98 million people across the Northeast, Midwest, and mid-Atlantic. 

airnow.gov air quality us canada wildfires

US East Coast Air Quality (June 8, 2023). Image: AirNow.gov.

New York City, which briefly ranked as the city with the world’s worst air pollution on Wednesday morning, currently has 43.4 times the PM2.5 concentration value recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), according to air quality monitoring platform IQAir. 

On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a ground stop at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, delaying thousands of flights due to low visibility conditions. Meanwhile, the National Women’s Soccer League announced it would postpone a match between the New Jersey-New York Hotham and Orlando Pride in Harrison, New Jersey, citing poor air quality conditions.

Schools across the state canceled outdoor activities. Mayor Eric Adams urged New Yorkers to stay inside or wear masks outdoors to battle the hazardous smoke, blaming climate change for the “unprecedented event”. 

“While this may be the first time we’ve experienced something like this on this magnitude…it is not the last. Climate change accelerated these conditions,” he said.

An ‘Unprecedented’ Wildfire Season 

Firefighters in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and parts of Ontario have been working relentlessly for nearly two months to contain the blazes that have so far scorched more than 3.8 million hectares (9.4 million acres) of forest. Canada’s “unprecedented” wildfire season has forced tens of thousands of people in communities nationwide to evacuate since fires began in late April.

There are currently more than 400 active wildfires across the country, 239 of which are classified as “out of control”. Quebec is currently the most affected province, with 150 active fires and little sign of relief as weather forecasters say heavier rain is not expected until early next week. More than 11,000 Quebeckers were under evacuation orders but the number was expected to surpass 15,000 by the end of the day, according to local authorities.

According to a White House statement, US President Joe Biden offered additional support to respond to the devastating and historic wildfires burning in Canada in a call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. The US has so far deployed more than 600 firefighters and support personnel, and other firefighting assets to respond to the fires.

Last week, Alberta authorities dropped a state of emergency that was put in place a month ago, as the situation in the region began to improve.

​​”This does not mean that the work to fight these fires and protect communities is over,” Mike Ellis, minister of public safety and emergency services, said during a news conference last Saturday, explaining that the wildfire situation remains serious despite improvements.

“We have the resources in place to protect the health and safety and well-being of Albertans without the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Management Act.”

The Environmental Impact of Wildfires

Wildfires release carbon dioxide and their emissions can prove to be significantly high. Particles from smoke and the burning of hazardous chemicals can also travel long distances, further reducing air quality and bearing multiple respiratory and cardiovascular ailments for humans and wildlife. For perspective, wildfires emitted 91 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in California in 2020 – 30 million more than the state’s power production emits on an annual basis.

Wildfires are also linked to water pollution. Forested water bodies account for 80% of the United State’s freshwater recourses and 3,400 public drinking-water systems derive from watersheds within national forests. With each wildfire, watersheds grow more vulnerable to stormwater runoff and erosion.

You might also like: The Environmental Impact of Wildfires

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a controversial natural gas pipeline, has received the required permits and authorisations following the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The pipeline is projected to cover 303 miles (488km) from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. 

The Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) received the federal government’s backing after the US Congress voted for a debt-ceiling deal that covered fast-tracking approvals for the pipeline. 

Although the pipeline – which will cost an estimated US$6.6 billion – has been denied multiple permits by courts due to concerns about water quality and environmental justice, the new bill requires the US Army Corps of Engineers to issue all remaining permits within 21 days and prohibits all judicial view of the permits. 

The development of the MVP has divided politicians hailing from the two states most heavily impacted by the project. Whereas West Virginia’s congressional delegation has strongly supported the pipeline, Virginia’s senators have opposed it. 

mountain valley pipeline

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, cutting across the fabled Appalachian Trail, would deliver natural gas from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia, connecting with another interstate pipeline that extends from Texas to New York. Image: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Senator Tim Kaine, who proposed an ultimately unsuccessful amendment to remove the pipeline provision from the overarching bill, expressed concern over the ability to review the pipeline. Following the bill’s passage, all challenges will be heard in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is more favourable to the pipeline, instead of the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, where most legal challenges have been heard. 

“My Virginians just want to be sure that if this pipeline is built, it has met the requisite standards of review agencies, both state and federal, and it has withstood any court challenges,” said Kaine. 

“Most people would be embarrassed to ask for that. ‘I lost, I’m unhappy, why don’t I get Congress to rewrite the rules of federal jurisdiction and take this case away from the court that’s maybe unhappy and put it in another court.’”

As part of its defence of the MVP, the White House has claimed that the pipeline is necessary for the country’s energy security. On the other hand, environmental groups have criticised the approval of the pipeline, arguing that it is largely unrelated to the debt ceiling. 

“Singling out the Mountain Valley Pipeline for the approval in a vote about our nation’s credit limit is an egregious act,” Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director of environmental organisation Appalachian Voices, said in a statement. 

“By attempting to suspend the rules for a pipeline company that has repeatedly polluted communities’ water and flouted the conditions in its permits, the president and Congress would deny basic legal protections, procedural fairness and environmental justice to communities along the pipeline’s path.”

Critics have also noted the significant environmental costs inflicted by the pipeline, challenging claims that the pipeline “will reduce carbon emissions and facilitate the energy transition”. 

Analysis by environmental group Oil Change International revealed that the MVP would emit more than 89 million metric tons of carbon, equal to the emissions of 26 coal plants. 

Other groups have raised environmental justice concerns about the MVP. Local landowners have claimed that the pipeline’s route infringes on the environmental justice rights of low-income and minority communities in both states. Residents of rural areas covered by the pipeline would also lack the resources to deal with severe malfunctions, such as an explosion. 

You might also like: Environmental Groups Sue Biden Administration Over Controversial Willow Project in Alaska

Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels reached an all-time high in May, the month when CO2 peaks in the Northern Hemisphere.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are now more than double what they were before the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday. 

The Washington, D.C.-based scientific and regulatory agency, which has been independently monitoring the situation since 1974, said CO2 levels at its Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked at 424 parts per million (ppm) in May, up 3.0 ppm over May 2022.

According to the agency, the annual increase in Keeling Curve peak is the fourth-largest on record and the continuation of a climb into values not seen for millions of years. The curve is named after David Keeling, who started measuring  CO2 levels for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1958. The latter, which also maintains an independent record, reported an average of 423.78 ppm for May, also an increase of 3.0 ppm from last year. 

“What we’d like to see is the curve plateauing and even falling because carbon dioxide as high as 420 or 425 parts per million is not good,” Keeling’s son Ralph Keeling, who now runs the Scripps programme, said in the NOAA statement. “It shows that as much as we’ve done to mitigate and reduce emissions, we still have a long way to go.”

Full record of monthly mean carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Image: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory.

Full record of monthly mean carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Image: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels were consistently around 280 ppm for almost 6,000 years of human civilisation. According to NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, the steady annual increase is a “direct result of human activity,” mainly from the burning of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation but also from cement manufacturing, deforestation, and agriculture

Rising CO2 levels have devastating consequences on the environment, from amplifying extreme weather events including heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires, to heating up oceans, resulting in rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and disruption of marine habitats and ecosystems.

While we will have to adapt to the climate impacts we cannot avoid, we must expend every effort to slash carbon pollution and safeguard this planet and the life that calls it home,” Spinrad added.

The latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 for a chance to meet the 1.5C target. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said last month that, despite pledges and commitments from governments around the world to cap global warming, there is a 66% chance that the world will breach the 1.5C threshold it in the next four years, owing to a rise in anthropogenic carbon emissions and an imminent El Niño weather pattern expected later this year.

Advancements in the clean energy sector, however, indicate that there is still hope that humanity will change the course before the impacts of global warming become irreversible.

Last week, the International Energy Agency said that investments in clean technologies – such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, and low-emissions fuels – are forecast to reach $1.7 trillion this year. In comparison, $1 trillion will go into fossil fuel projects. The “unprecedented momentum” in renewable energy manufacturing and global spending on clean energy was triggered by several factors, including a strong rebound in economic growth following the Covid-19 pandemic, effective climate policies such as the US Inflation Reduction Act, and rising fossil fuel prices triggered by the war in Ukraine.

You might also like: 14 Biggest Environmental Problems of 2023

Global negotiators agreed to develop a legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution at last week’s UN talks in Paris, though countries are still divided over issues such as whether the rules should be legally binding and whether they will limit fossil fuel companies’ manufacturing of new plastic products.

More than 170 countries have agreed to craft a draft plastic treaty after a week of tense negotiations at a UN conference in Paris, though divisions remain over issues such as whether the rules will be legally binding.

Last week’s second meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC2) saw global delegates discuss how to reduce plastic pollution at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris, France. The conference ended with an agreement to produce an initial draft before the next meeting in Kenya in November. Countries will have until the end of next year to settle the final terms of the deal.

Environmental groups welcomed the outcome, though concerns remain over potential hindrances from the petroleum industry and fossil fuel-producing countries. Indeed, while a coalition of “high-ambitious” governments led by Norway and Rwanda is looking to end plastic pollution altogether by 2040 by slashing production, nations including the US, Russia, and China want a less-ambitious, voluntary system in which countries are free to set their own frameworks and regulations around plastic manufacturing.

“Now is the time to end the age of plastics, but it is clear from this week’s INC2 negotiations that oil producing countries and the fossil fuel industry will do everything in their power to weaken a Global Plastics Treaty and delay the process,” said Greenpeace on Twitter.

“The Global Plastics Treaty must tackle plastic production head on. A strong Global Plastics Treaty will align with the need to stay within 1.5℃ and move the world away from its plastic addiction. Anything else less than that, and the treaty will fail.”

Petrochemical companies, which are growing more reliant on plastic production as the world shifts away from fossil fuels, are backing the latter approach. Represented by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in Paris, they campaigned for solutions that do not directly impact production, such as waste management and recycling.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk this week about capping production but we’ve also heard a lot of talk from governments about the role of plastics to achieve society’s goals,” said Stew Harris, ACC senior director of global plastics policy.  

Negotiations to develop the first international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution, on land and at sea, began in February 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya, when the UN Environment Assembly approved a landmark resolution to establish the world’s first international treaty on plastic pollution. The deal was seen as the most significant multilateral environmental agreement since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The world generates more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, compared to two million tonnes in 1950. The amount is projected to double by 2040. This exponentially growing environmental issue is associated with rising air and marine pollution. It is estimated that roughly 40% of the ocean’s surface is covered in plastic debris, impacting more than 800 marine and coastal species through ingestion and entanglement. If our plastic consumption and behaviour continues, scientists warn that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean as soon as 2030.

According to a recent report co-published by the nonprofit Defend Our Health and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Beyond Petrochemicals campaign ahead of the Paris summit, the beverage industry is behind a large share of global plastic waste. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles, the report suggests, are cause hazardous chemical pollution at every stage of their life cycle. Beverage companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé are among the world’s largest plastic polluters, producing more than half a trillion plastic bottles every year – nearly a million per minute.

You might also like: World Environment Day 2023: 10 Scientific Solutions to Plastic Pollution

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is under mounting pressure to ease the load-shedding emergency. The country is currently in the midst of its worst-ever energy crisis, which is triggering blackouts for 10 hours a day or longer.

South Africa is negotiating a 5-year power purchase agreements programme to ease one of the country’s worst blackout crises to date, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa announced on Wednesday.

Of the 2,000 MW needed to alleviate blackouts, at least 1,200 MW will come from natural gas provided by Turkish company Karpowership under an existing agreement. For the remaining power, the country will rely on heavy fuel oil from the company’s other plants, an anonymous source told Bloomberg.

The country’s plan to burn heavy fuel oil, a much dirtier fuel than gas, is expected to trigger a backlash from energy transitioners and climate activists. Last week, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times that the government is prepared for legal fights with environmental groups over its decision. 

“Environmentalists veto every development they don’t like,” he said. “People can take us to court as many times as they can, we will continue with gas and petroleum exploration.”

Even though Eskom, South Africa’s government-owned national power utility and primary power generator, announced last year a plan to phase out almost half of its coal-dependent power by shutting down nine power stations by 2035, the government is reportedly considering extending the operational lives of two of its largest coal-fuelled power plants to boost its precarious energy security. Kendal and Oethabo, which are currently set to be decommissioned after 2035, account for about one-fifth of Eskom’s current capacity.

“The consideration of continuation of operation at present focuses on those older stations, which happen to be the smaller units,” Eskom said in response to queries.

South Africa currently relies upon coal to generate up to 87% of its electricity. Coal also accounts for the largest share of energy consumption in the country, followed by oil and gas, while renewable energy only accounts for a very small portion of the energy mix.

energy consumption by source south africa

Energy consumption in South Africa, 1065-2021. Image: Our World in Data.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office in 2018, is under mounting pressure to tackle what many describe as the country’s worst-ever power cuts crisis as the country heads into the Southern Hemisphere winter with blackouts for 10 hours a day or longer. 

Last month, Eskom said that in terms of the amount of energy shed, load-shedding for 2023 has already exceeded that of 2022 – which was thought to be the worst the country ever experienced. 

“The energy shed was 8116 GWh in 2022 versus 8351 GWh from January 1 until May 7, 2023,” the company revealed.

The issue – commonly referred to as load-shedding – began in 2007 and is persisting today. The roots of the problem, experts argue, lie in corruption, sabotage, and mismanagement of the government-owned power utility.

Featured image: Media Club/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

You might also like: 3 Challenges to South Africa’s Clean Energy Transition

A new study on the limits of planetary boundaries suggests that most of them have already been breached. This, researchers warn, poses a huge threat to humans and ecosystems around the world.

Human activities have pushed seven out of eight planetary boundaries beyond their “safe and just limit” into risk zones that indicate a huge threat to our planet’s and human health, a group of the world’s most renowned scientists has found.

In their study, published in the scientific journal Nature on Wednesday, experts looked into so-called planetary boundaries, key processes essential for sustaining life on Earth. Each one has a limit as to how much pressure it can take from humanity before it is pushed over a tipping point in which changes can no longer be reversed. 

The earth systems boundaries outlined in the paper, which include climate, natural ecosystem area, ecosystem functional integrity, surface water, groundwater, nitrogen, and phosphorus, are highly interconnected, meaning that breaching the safe limit for one could have a knock-on effect on the others.

Planetary boundaries reboot. The red lines indicate a limit to what is ‘safe’ for the planet. The green space represents the threshold that is both safe for the planet and protects the world’s most vulnerable populations (‘safe and just’). The Earth-shaped icons show how, in seven of eight cases, thresholds for a safe and just world have already been crossed. Source: J. Rockström et al.

Planetary boundaries reboot. The red lines indicate a limit to what is ‘safe’ for the planet. The green space represents the threshold that is both safe for the planet and protects the world’s most vulnerable populations (‘safe and just’). The Earth-shaped icons show how, in seven of eight cases, thresholds for a safe and just world have already been crossed. Source: J. Rockström et al.

The research, which was carried out by the independent international scientific assessment initiative Earth Commission, found that the “safe and just” limit for global temperature rise, 1C, had already been surpassed. Scientists behind the study argued that a rise of 1.5C, the threshold agreed upon by world leaders under the Paris Agreement, could negatively impact 200 million people and expose more than half a billion people to long-term sea level rise.

Aside from that, scientists found that the level of intact ecosystems needed for the planet to thrive – anywhere between 50-60% – had also already been breached. Similarly, the use of nitrogen oxide emissions, a leading cause of water pollution, needed to be halved in order to stop the growth of harmful plant and algal blooms on surface water.

State of the Earth based on ‘safe and just’ planetary boundaries identified by the Earth Commission. Source: Rockström, Gupta, Qin Dahe, Lade et al, 'Safe and just Earth system boundaries', Nature, 2023.

State of the Earth based on ‘safe and just’ planetary boundaries identified by the Earth Commission. Source: Rockström, Gupta, Qin Dahe, Lade et al, ‘Safe and just Earth system boundaries’, Nature, 2023 (Earth.Org).

A highly influential 2009 research originally identified biophysical boundaries, focussing on the effects of climate change on the planet itself. The new research, however, moved past that, attempting to identify the limits after which humans will suffer significant harm by including “justice” and equity for people in their scientific analysis. Researchers behind the study argued that people had an absolute right to water, food, energy, and health, alongside the right to a clean environment, yet the rapidly changing climate is resulting in a lack of access to clean water, widespread food insecurity, and the displacement of hundreds of millions of people because of rising temperatures and sea levels, floods, and other weather-related calamities. 

Johan Rockström, a co-author of the study and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, described the findings as “very worrying,” adding that the consequences of planetary boundaries overshootings are already hurting populations across the globe, especially “among the vast vulnerable majorities.”

You might also like: The Tipping Points of Climate Change: How Will Our World Change?

As part of the 2021 Climate and Resilience Law, the French government last week banned short-haul flights between Paris and three regional hubs that can be replaced by a train journey of two-and-a-half hours or less.

The French government has signed into law a new ban on short-haul, domestic flights for journeys that can be completed by train in a bid to fight climate change.

The ban affects routes linking Paris-Orly airport to the Western cities of Bordeaux and Nantes, and Lyon in east-central France. The three air routes have been discontinued since there is a high-speed rail alternative that links the destinations in less than two-and-a-half hours. For the ban to apply, there must also be enough trains running in the early and late hours of the day to enable travellers to spend at least eight hours at their destination.

President Emmanuel Macron’s own environmental panel had initially suggested banning flights wherever a train journey of four hours or less was available.

France’s transport minister Clement Beaune, who heralded the decree last week, called the move “an essential step” and a “strong symbol in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“As we fight relentlessly to decarbonise our lifestyles, how can we justify the use of the plane between the big cities which benefit from regular, fast and efficient connections by train,” he said.

Using a train instead of a domestic flight would reduce a passenger’s emissions by approximately 84%. Indeed, while a domestic flight emits approximately 255 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilometre, a train only emits about 41 grams of carbon per kilometre and is thus considered a more environmentally friendly option.

emissions by mode of transport. Our world in data

Emissions from different modes of transport. Graph: Our World in Data.

Critics have described the measure as a “symbolic ban,” arguing that discontinuing the three routes in question will only have minimal effects on the country’s total carbon emissions.

Many argue that France should instead focus on implementing measures to reduce emissions from private jets, which are up to 14 times more polluting than commercial flights per passenger mile, and 50 times worse than trains, according to a report from Transport and Environment (T&E).

A Greenpeace analysis published in March suggests that private jet traffic in Europe increased nearly five-fold between 2020 and 2022. Last year, France, the UK, and Germany were the countries with the most private jet flights and the French cities of Nice and Paris were among the most popular destinations.

The ban is part of a wide-ranging law to tackle climate change. Passed in 2021, the “Climate and Resilience Law” aims at cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the country by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

The law has been criticised in the past for not being sufficiently ambitious. In an analysis carried out by the German think-tank Centre for European Policy, analyst Marion Jousseaume said the measures contained in the law are “largely insufficient to contribute to the new EU 2030 climate target” of cutting emissions across the bloc’s 27 member states by 55% by the end of the current decade.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons

You might also like: French State to Pay €20 Million Fine For Failing to Tackle Air Pollution In France, Court Rules

According to a new analysis, clean energy investments will reach $1 trillion this year, compared to about $1 trillion to finance fossil fuel projects. 

The rapid expansion of clean energy technology manufacturing is set to increase green energy production and capacity, bringing the world on the right path to cover demand levels in the Net-Zero Emissions (NZE) Scenario, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said last week. More specifically, investments in clean technologies – such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, and low-emissions fuels – are forecast to reach $1.7 trillion this year. In comparison, $1 trillion will go into fossil fuel projects.

According to a new analysis of manufacturing of clean technology – including solar photovoltaic (PV), batteries, wind, heat pumps, and electrolysers, a strong rebound in economic growth following the Covid-19 pandemic as well as effective policies including the US Inflation Reduction Act passed last year are among the main drivers of the increased global spending on clean energy. In a December report, the IEA also suggested that the war in Ukraine and rising fossil fuel prices have triggered an “unprecedented momentum” in the renewable sector, speeding up the development of renewable energy including solar and wind.

The European Union and four countries – Vietnam, India, the US, and China – account for 80-90% of the manufacturing of the five clean technologies examined in the report, with the latter alone accounting for 40-80%.

Solar energy remains among the fastest-growing clean energy sources, with investments set to outstrip spending on oil production this year for the first time. In 2022, global manufacturing capacity grew by almost 40% to about 640GW compared to 160GW in 2021, with China accounting for 90% of worldwide manufacturing.

Current and projected geographic concentration for manufacturing operations for key clean technologies. Image: IEA.

Current and projected geographic concentration for manufacturing operations for key clean technologies. Image: IEA.

Battery manufacturing is also on the rise, with the IEA suggesting that if all announced projects were to come to fruition, these green technologies could cover “virtually all of the 2030 global deployment needs of the NZE Scenario.”

“If these clean energy investments continue to grow in line with what we have seen in the past few years . . . we will soon start to see a very different energy system emerging and we can keep the 1.5C goal alive,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told the Financial Times.  

Wind and heat pump manufacturing, on the other hand, experienced a much slower growth last year, of 2% and 13% respectively, leaving a “large gap” between the forecasted output from announced projects and the 2030 NZE Scenario.

Earlier this year, the IEA said that renewable energy is forecast to dominate the projected electricity demand through 2025, with the power sector approaching a “tipping point” on its carbon dioxide emissions. The world’s electricity demand is set to accelerate to an average of 3% over the next three years, with more than 70% of the increase coming from China, India, and Southeast Asia. By 2025, Asia will account for half of the world’s electricity consumption, with one-third being consumed in China. 

You might also like: EV Sales Expected to Grow By 35% This Year After Record-Breaking 2022, Says IEA

On Monday, the US states of Arizona, Nevada, and California signed a landmark deal that entails cutting water consumption by 3 million acre-feet in order to prevent water shortages amongst states that border the Colorado River. 

From now until 2026, the states bordering the Colorado River – Arizona, Nevada, and California – will collectively have to cut their water use by more than 3 million acre-feet (approx. 370046 hectare-meter) as a part of a landmark deal reached on Monday.

In the context of the deal, the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will help cities and irrigation districts in the three “Lower Basin” states roughly US$1.2 billion in exchange for using less water. 

But this is merely a short-term fix. Many farmers consider the restrictions an insult to their industry because the agreement does not address long-term water sustainability concerns in the area. Government officials of the three aforesaid states must pay farmers more per acre-foot of water than they would have earned from selling crops on a specific field in order to persuade them to plant fewer crops. This stems from the fact that the deal is actively urging farmers to produce drought-resistant crops,effectively reducing the total number of crops they can grow and thereby also reducing potential profits. 

Farmers in California’s Imperial Valley have resisted accepting money to leave their fields unplanted, especially since vegetable prices have remained as high as they already were due to overall inflation in the American economy. Irrigation officials have compensated growers to invest in technologies aimed at making their farms more efficient – such as precision irrigation, drought-resistant crops, and soil moisture sensors. 

The Imperial Valley programme is one of the two main initiatives undertaken by the federal government. It focuses on improving water efficiency and reducing demands for water supply by the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) – a public agency that provides water and energy supply services to California Imperial Valley and one of the biggest consumers of Colorado River water. Aside from the IID, the other main consumers of Colorado River water are the states of California and Arizona. 

A second programme, which focuses on water management in parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, is the Upper Basin pilot programme. Both programmes get considerable reimbursement from the Biden administration for their conservation efforts.

The federal government gave the river states an ultimatum last summer, forcing them to reduce their water usage by between 2 and 4 million acre-feet, or as much as one-third of the river’s typical annual flow, by coming up with a plan by 2023. This sparked the competition among the 7 bordering states of the Colorado River –Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. If these states fail to agree on their own, the administration threatened to impose unilateral water cuts

Although California and Arizona, combined, were blamed by the Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico for taking up a majority of the Colorado River water. However, Californian representatives urged that Arizona take accountability for the excessive water usage.

At the root of this impending doom of a water crisis in the region is the mega-drought that has affected the Western US for nearly two decades. Rising temperatures caused Lake Mead (located in southeastern Nevada and partially in northwestern Arizona) and Lake Powell (northern Arizona and partially in southern Utah) to reach their lowest levels ever in 2022. These record lows prompted the first-ever Tier 1 Water Shortage declaration for the reservoir, which has been in effect since early 2022. 

To lessen the risks of worsening water insecurity in Colorado, in 2015, then-governor John Hickenlooper signed the state’s first water plan. It includes goals such as reaching 400,000 acre-feet (approx. 45,000 hectare-meters) of local and industrial water conservation by 2050 and having 75% of Coloradans incorporate water-saving land-use planning by 2025. While this plan was temporarily efficient, the territory still lacks a long-term plan.

Water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead are projected to stabilise this summer thanks to the melting of the Rocky Mountains’ snowpack, making it slightly easier for states to implement the deal. Nonetheless, a $4 billion tranche for the facilitation of drought response was negotiated by Arizona’s Senator Kyrsten Sinema in order to finalise the agreement for the next three years. 

What will happen when the conservation agreement ends at the end of 2026 as states and tribes come together to discuss the river’s long-term future remains the biggest concern at this point. For now, issues such as who should use less water and how the government may compensate tribal groups who still lack access to water remain unresolved. 

You might also like: What’s Happening with the Arizona Water Shortage Crisis

Subscribe to our newsletter

Hand-picked stories once a fortnight. We promise, no spam!

Instagram @earthorg Follow Us