Electric Vehicle Sales More Than Doubled in 2017
The report, Global EV Outlook 2018, gave a summary of the state of EVs today and estimated their progress through 2030.
It found that more than one million EVs were sold in 2017, raising the total number of hybrid or electric cars on the road to more than three million. That's a 54 percent increase compared to 2016's sales, an IEA press release reported.
Half of those cars were sold in China, the largest EV market in the world. Electric car sales in China rose 72 percent in 2017 to nearly 580,000 cars. The U.S. saw the second largest number of total EV sales in 2017, at around 280,000 cars sold. German and Japan both made important progress, doubling EV sales from 2016.
When it comes to market share of EV sales, however, the nordic countries took the lead. Thirty-nine percent of new car sales in Norway were electric cars in 2017, the highest percentage of any country. Iceland followed at 12 percent with Sweden coming in third at six.
The report found that government policies supporting EV vehicles had been essential for the boost in sales.
"The main markets by volume (China) and sales share (Norway) have the strongest policy push," the IEA said, according to AFP.
Helpful policies included public procurement programs, financial incentives for purchasing EVs and tougher air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions standards.
The report also found that the lowered cost and improved efficiency of lithium-ion batteries helped drive growth, though more work needs to be done on both fronts to increase the appeal of EVs.
When it comes to the future growth of the EV market, the report found that government policies could continue to make a big difference.
The report ran two scenarios: the IEA New Policies Scenario, based on current government policies and countries' commitments under the Paris agreement, and the EV30@30 Scenario, based on an estimation of what would happen if governments worldwide adopted the EV 30@30 campaign launched by the Clean Energy Ministerial calling on member countries to make EVs account for 30 percent of vehicles sold by 2030.
Under the New Policies Scenario, the number of EVs would reach 125 million by 2030, but under the EV30@30 Scenario, that number could rise to 220 million.
The EV30@30 Scenario was also better for the global fight against climate change, nearly doubling the amount of greenhouse gas emissions avoided compared to the New Policies Scenario if the electric grid does not also switch to renewable energy sources. If the grid did "decarbonize," the emissions avoided under the EV30@30 would be four times the emissions avoided under the New Policies Scenario.
However, the report found one humanitarian and environmental challenge with the growth of EVs: the use of cobalt and other rare metals for batteries. As the press release notes, 60 percent of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Humans rights groups have raised concerns over the working conditions for miners in the conflict-heavy country, AFP reported. But the EV30@30 Scenario could increase the demand for cobalt 25 times by 2030, the report found.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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