By Mark McCord
- An academic paper suggests key tipping points can significantly reduce carbon emissions, which would help to slow global warming.
- Government policies are making coal uneconomical.
- Electric vehicle pricing structures have helped reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the world's roads.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the battle to reduce carbon emissions.
Towards the Paris Agreement Targets<p>Such tipping points are hoped to help the world meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which 196 heads of state agreed to reduce global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a preferred target of 1.5 degrees. Were they achieved, experts say the positive impacts would be <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/12/emissions-paris-agreement-two-decades-climate-change-global-warming/" target="_blank">felt within two decades</a>.</p><p>The accord strives for a climate-neutral world by the middle of this century. It's expected to be built upon at the United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26, which is due to take place in November. The World Economic Forum's <a href="https://www.weforum.org/our-impact/accelerating-climate-action" target="_blank">Climate Initiative</a> strives also to offer globally linked solutions.</p><p>The report in Climate Policy explains how a combination of factors led to the tipping point that prompted the UK to decarbonize its power industry. They included the creation of a carbon tax, an EU scheme that made gas cheaper than coal and an investment strategy for renewable energy that made coal less economical.</p><p>"The power sector needs to decarbonize four times faster than its current rate, and the pace of the transition to zero-emission vehicles needs to double," Lenton said.</p><p>"Many people are questioning whether this is achievable. But hope lies in the way that tipping points can spark rapid change through complex systems."</p><img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1Njk2MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTA0MzY2MH0.aeowRd-sEX7nd5xnijsCNTSSekAtpS3wpEN46KVIPMU/img.png?width=980" id="87cc2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="92b9fbb9ef86f4f9154ecd20fe0d6477" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1008" data-height="1132" />
Wind and solar accounted for a third of the UK's energy generation in 2020. Statista
Positive Tipping Points<p>Besides the UK, the authors of the paper cited Norway as an example of the nations that have acted to reduce greenhouse gases pumped out by motor vehicles.</p><p>Through government incentives, new electric vehicles (EV) in Norway are priced similarly to petrol and diesel cars. This has <a href="https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/news/articles/positivetippingpointsoffe.html" target="_blank">boosted sales of EVs to more than 50% of new car purchases, compared with 2%-3% worldwide</a>.</p><p>China, the European Union (EU) and California are responsible for half of global car sales. Professor Lenton suggests that if they formed an international effort to redirect investment from conventional cars to EVs they could reduce costs, boost production and create a broader tipping point that would accelerate the reduction of fossil fuel use.</p><p>Lenton argues that if government action can lower the cost of financing renewables to below that of excavating coal, industries linked to transport, heating and power could all rapidly decarbonize.</p><p>That's good news because a new, more urgent, approach is needed to reduce the rate at which the global climate is warming, according to scientists.</p>
2020 and 2016 Hottest Years on Record<p>Earlier this month, the <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-change-temperature/2020-ties-with-2016-as-worlds-hottest-year-on-record-eu-climate-change-service-says-idUSL1N2JI1YT" target="_blank">EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2020 had equaled 2016 as the hottest year on record</a>.</p><p>A study published in Climate Dynamics said <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/global-warming-threshold-reached-by-2027/" target="_blank">the planet could breach the threshold for global warming between 2027 and 2042</a>, a decade earlier than previously thought.</p><p>"If either of these efforts – in power or road transport – succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change," Lenton said.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from the </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/climate-change-carbon-emissions-global-warming/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Francesco Starace and Jean-Pascal Tricoire
Why is it so important to decarbonize cities? And how can we do it?
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To truly get the most out of life, a person needs to be able to get a good night's sleep, which has led many to wonder if there is anything behind the idea of CBD for sleep improvement.
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City of Cambridge
City of Cambridge / Facebook
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A new report from Princeton University released yesterday details five pathways for achieving net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050, with "priority actions" the U.S. should take before 2030.
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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday that would ban the sale of new cars in California that run only on gasoline by the year 2035. The bid to reduce emissions and combat the climate crisis would make California the first state to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, according to POLITICO.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="15499060d7b57be67100758264d9f877"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/iFchfHH0qzg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Hazardous Contents<p>Batteries pose more complex recycling and disposal challenges than metals, plastics and paper products because they contain many chemical components that are both toxic and difficult to separate.</p><p>Some types of widely used batteries – notably, lead-acid batteries in gasoline-powered cars – have relatively simple chemistries and designs that make them straightforward to recycle. The common nonrechargeable alkaline or water-based batteries that power devices like flashlights and smoke alarms can be disposed directly in landfills.</p><p>However, today's lithium-ion batteries are highly sophisticated and not designed for recyclability. They contain hazardous chemicals, such as toxic lithium salts and <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/transition-metal" target="_blank">transition metals</a>, that can damage the environment and leach into water sources. Used lithium batteries also contain embedded electrochemical energy – a small amount of charge left over after they can no longer power devices – which can cause fires or explosions, or <a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/e/5/e5530917-434d-451c-8a6b-c5cdfad1b5ec/EED12407A6BF7DE6C86A4B39C25CF6A4.greenberger-testimony-07.17.2019.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">harm people that handle them</a>.</p>
<div id="007de" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="34d57a5a359e141bcf74c9b1f66eae5f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1026491976722468865" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The dangers of disposing of lithium batteries improperly - Battery blamed for Guernsey recycling site blaze https://t.co/Xcs76DI520</div> — Daniel Kinsbursky (@Daniel Kinsbursky)<a href="https://twitter.com/kbirecycling/statuses/1026491976722468865">1533569733.0</a></blockquote></div>
Safer and Simpler<p>While it will be challenging to bake recyclability into the existing manufacturing of conventional lithium-ion batteries, it is vital to develop sustainable practices for solid-state batteries, which are a next-generation technology expected to enter the market within this decade.</p><p>A solid-state battery replaces the flammable organic liquid electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries with a nonflammable inorganic solid electrolyte. This allows the battery to operate over a much wider temperature range and dramatically reduces the risk of fires or explosions. Our <a href="http://zhengchen.eng.ucsd.edu/" target="_blank">team of nanoengineers</a> is working to incorporate ease of recyclability into next-generation solid-state battery development before these batteries enter the market.</p><p>Conceptually, recycling-friendly batteries must be safe to handle and transport, simple to dismantle, cost-effective to manufacture and minimally harmful to the environment. After analyzing the options, we've chosen a combination of specific chemistries in next-generation all-solid-state batteries that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1557/mre.2020.25" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">meets these requirements</a>.</p><p>Our design strategy reduces the number of steps required to dismantle the battery, and avoids using combustion or harmful chemicals such as acids or toxic organic solvents. Instead, it employs only safe, low-cost materials such as alcohol and water-based recycling techniques. This approach is scalable and environmentally friendly. It dramatically simplifies conventional battery recycling processes and makes it safe to disassemble and handle the materials.</p>
Rules for Battery Recycling<p>Developing an easy-to-recycle battery is just one step. Many challenges associated with battery recycling stem from the complex logistics of handling them. Creating facilities, regulations and practices for collecting batteries is just as important as developing better recycling technologies. China, South Korea and the European Union are <a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d/c/dc43cdc9-ef56-4f8c-b442-d325aa8acf72/D775B276380B37ABF9A49BFD581DD1A5.sanders-testimony-07.17.2019.pdf" target="_blank">already developing battery recycling systems and mandates</a>.</p><p>One useful step would be for governments to require that batteries carry universal tags, similar to the internationally recognized standard labels used for plastics and metals recycling. These could help to educate consumers and waste collectors about how to handle different types of used batteries.</p><p>Markings could take the form of an electronic tag printed on battery labels with embedded information, such as chemistry type, age and manufacturer. Making this data readily available would facilitate automated sorting of large volumes of batteries at waste facilities.</p><p>It is also vital to improve international enforcement of recycling policies. Most battery waste is not generated where the batteries were originally produced, which makes it hard to hold manufacturers responsible for handling it.</p><p>Such an undertaking would require manufacturers and regulatory agencies to work together on newer recycling-friendly designs and better collection infrastructure. By confronting these challenges now, we believe it is possible to avoid or reduce the harmful effects of battery waste in the future.</p>
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By Bill Ritter Jr.
Joe Biden is preparing to deal with climate change in a way no U.S. president has done before – by mobilizing his entire administration to take on the challenge from every angle in a strategic, integrated way.
Dealing With All Those Climate Policy Rollbacks<p>From its first days, the Trump administration began trying to nullify or weaken U.S. environmental regulations. It had <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks-list.html" target="_blank">rolled back 84 environmental rules</a> by November 2020, including <a href="https://rhg.com/research/the-rollback-of-us-climate-policy/" target="_blank">major climate policies</a>, and more rollbacks were being pursued, according to a New York Times analysis of research from Harvard and Columbia law schools.</p><p>Many of these rules had been designed to reduce climate-warming pollution from power plants, cars and trucks. Several <a href="https://eelp.law.harvard.edu/2017/09/bam-methane-waste-prevention-rule/" target="_blank">reduced emissions of methane</a>, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas production. The Trump administration <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-mining-resolution-trump/trump-moves-to-loosen-mining-regulations-approve-projects-as-he-exits-idUSKBN29D1AD?ct=t(RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN)" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">also moved</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2020/oct/26/revealed-trump-public-lands-oil-drilling" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">open more land</a> to more drilling, mining and <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/04/11/712121425/trump-signs-executive-orders-in-push-to-make-it-easier-to-build-oil-and-gas-pipe" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pipelines</a>.</p><p>Some rollbacks have been challenged in court and the rules then reinstated. Others are still being litigated. Many will require going through government rule-making processes that take years to reverse.</p>
Pressuring Other Countries to Take Action<p>Biden can quickly bring the U.S. back into the international Paris climate agreement, through which countries worldwide agreed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming. But <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-biden-and-kerry-could-rebuild-americas-global-climate-leadership-150120" target="_blank">reestablishing the nation's leadership</a> role with the international climate community is a much longer haul.</p><p>Former Secretary of State John Kerry will lead this effort as special envoy for climate change, a new Cabinet-level position with a seat on the National Security Council. Other parts of the government can also pressure countries to take action. International development funding can encourage climate-friendly actions, and trade agreements and tariffs can establish rules of conduct.</p><h3>Cleaning Up the Power Sector</h3><p>The Biden-Harris <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">climate plan</a> aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector to net zero by 2035.</p><p>While <a href="https://sepapower.org/utility-transformation-challenge/utility-carbon-reduction-tracker/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">62 major utilities</a> in the U.S. have set their own emission reduction goals, most leaders in that sector would argue that requiring net zero emissions by 2035 is too much too fast.</p><p>One problem is that states are often more involved in regulating the power sector than the federal government. And, when federal regulations are passed, they are <a href="https://policyintegrity.org/trump-court-roundup" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">often challenged in court</a>, meaning they can take years to implement.</p><p>Reducing greenhouse gases also requires modernizing the electricity transmission grid. The federal government can streamline the permitting process to allow more clean energy, like wind and solar power, onto the grid. Without that intervention, it could take a decade or more to permit a single transmission line.</p><h3>The Falling Costs of Renewable Energy</h3><p>A comparison of the average levelized cost of utility-scale power generation, without subsidies, shows how new solar and onshore wind became less expensive than coal generation. Costs are in U.S. dollars per megawatt-hour.</p>
What to Do About Vehicles, Buildings and Ag<p>The power sector may be the easiest sector to "decarbonize." The transportation sector is another story.</p><p>Transportation is now the nation's <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/everything-you-need-know-about-fastest-growing-source-global-emissions-transport" target="_blank">leading emitter of carbon dioxide</a>. Decarbonizing it will require a transition away from the internal combustion engine in a relatively short amount of time.</p><p>Again, this is a challenge that requires many parts and levels of government working toward the same goal. It will require expanding carbon-free transportation, including more electric vehicles, charging stations, better battery technology and clean energy. That involves regulations and funding for research and development from multiple departments, as well as trade agreements, tax incentives for electric vehicles and a shift in how government agencies buy vehicles. The EPA can facilitate these efforts or hamstring them, as happened when the Trump EPA <a href="https://www.resourcesmag.org/resources-radio/waive-goodbye-history-and-future-california-waiver-emily-wimberger/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">revoked California's ability to set higher emissions standards</a> – something the Biden administration is likely to quickly restore.</p><p>The other "hard to decarbonize" sectors – buildings, industry and agriculture – will require sophistication and collaboration among all federal departments and agencies unlike any previous efforts across government.</p>
A New Comprehensive Climate Bill<p>The best way to tackle these sectors would be a comprehensive climate bill that uses some mechanism, like a <a href="https://www.rff.org/publications/issue-briefs/clean-energy-standards" target="_blank">clean energy standard</a>, that sets a cap, or limit, on emissions and tightens it over time. Here, the problem lies more in the politics of the moment than anything else. Biden and his team will have to convince lawmakers from fossil fuel-producing states to work on these efforts.</p><p>Democratic control of the Senate raises the chances that Congress could pass comprehensive climate legislation, but that isn't a given. Until that happens, Biden will have to rely on agencies issuing new rules, which are vulnerable to being revoked by future administrations. It's a little like playing chess without a queen or rooks.</p><p>Years of delays have allowed global warming to progress so far that many of its impacts may soon become irreversible. To meet its ambitious goals, the administration will need everyone, progressives and conservatives, state and local leaders, and the private sector, to work with them.</p><h3>Biden's Core Climate Team</h3><p>President-elect Joe Biden's senior leadership picks have years of experience with climate policy. He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced these seven as their core climate team. Gina McCarthy, John Kerry and Ali Zaidi will not require Senate confirmation. The others will.</p>
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Promptly implementing the aggressive actions necessary to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas pollution to net-zero by 2050 would save the U.S. at least $3.5 trillion compared to the cost of waiting until 2030 to start achieving that goal, a report published Wednesday by Energy Innovation found.
As electric vehicles become more mainstream, the demand for lithium ion car batteries is growing. But to increase production, the industry needs more lithium, cobalt, and nickel.
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