Energy Efficiency and Technology Squeeze the Carbon Bubble
The carbon bubble will burst with or without government action, according to a new study. That will hurt people who invest in fossil fuels.
As energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies improve and prices drop, global demand for fossil fuels will decline, "stranding" new fossil fuel ventures—likely before 2035, according to the study in Nature Climate Change, "Macroeconomic impact of stranded fossil fuel assets."
Researchers from Cambridge University and elsewhere found technological advances will strand fossil fuel assets regardless of "whether or not new climate policies are adopted," but that "the loss would be amplified if new climate policies to reach the 2°C target of the Paris Agreement are adopted and/or if low-cost producers (some OPEC countries) maintain their level of production ('sell out') despite declining demand."
That could "amount to a discounted global wealth loss of US$1–4 trillion," and Russia, the U.S. and Canada could see their fossil fuel industries nearly shut down, the report says.
The best way to limit these negative impacts is to divest from fossil fuels and speed up the transition to a diversified, energy-efficient, clean-energy economy. Investing tax dollars to expand fossil fuel development and infrastructure, including pipelines, is irresponsible and incompatible with Canada's Paris agreement commitments, putting everyone at economic risk, and leaving us with polluted air, water and land, and increasing climate impacts and health-care bills.
Lead author Jean-François Mercure told The Guardian, "With more policies from governments, this would happen faster. But without strong [climate] policies, it is already happening. To some degree at least you can't stop it. But if people stop putting funds now in fossil fuels, they may at least limit their losses."
Co-author Jorge Viñuales said, "Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sands."
Researchers found that while the shift from fossil fuels to conservation and clean energy is moving quickly enough to strand fossil fuel assets, it's not happening fast enough to keep global average temperature from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. That will require concerted action from governments worldwide to meet and exceed Paris agreement commitments.
One often overlooked factor is efficiency. A study in Nature Energy found energy efficiency improvements could limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels—the aspirational Paris agreement target. Many experts have suggested limiting warming to that degree would require large-scale bioenergy deployment (burning forest and plant products for energy) and negative emissions technologies (removing CO2 from the air and storing it on land, underground or in the oceans). But many of those technologies haven't been tested on a commercial scale, and burning biomass creates pollution and affects land use, habitat and food production—and the new report says warming could be limited without them.
According to a Carbon Brief article, researchers used integrated assessment models to determine how improving energy efficiency in the global north and south could help limit warming to 1.5°C while fulfilling international sustainable development goals, including "zero hunger," "good health and wellbeing" and "affordable and clean energy" for all.
Technological and social innovation at the consumer and industrial level, including "the spread of digital services in the global south and the rise of vehicle-sharing in the global north" would fuel most improvements. Measures like getting people to reduce or eliminate meat from their diets would also be necessary, as far more energy and land are required to raise and produce meat than fruits and vegetables.
Although the report offers hope, our best bet for avoiding the worst effects of a warming planet is to do everything we can at all levels of society and government: conserve energy, shift to clean energy, protect and restore green spaces, reduce meat consumption, improve women's rights and family planning to stabilize population growth, increase infrastructure for transportation alternatives to the private automobile, divest from fossil fuels and hold politicians to account for credible climate policies.
The world is changing in response to serious energy challenges. We can take advantage of the growing economic opportunities and benefits to human health, ecosystems and the climate or we can keep extracting, selling and burning fossil fuels while the world warms. The choice is obvious.
New York Takes Giant Step to Divest From Fossil Fuels https://t.co/MvWXY7WCVF #DivestNY #divest @350 @billmckibben… https://t.co/1K40LGTZRS— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1513800942.0
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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