David Roberts has a good run-down of a recent report on what is going on in the battle for renewable energy. If you squint, you can find some good news. China is making a lot of progress. More electricity is produced using renewable resources. But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a drop in the bucket.
Before we get started, a few background facts.
First, we’re still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions aren’t falling fast enough. In fact, they aren’t falling at all; they were up 1.7 percent in 2018.
Second, we’re still pushing in the wrong direction. Globally, subsidies to fossil fuels were up 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year.
And third, the effort to clean up is flagging. Total investment in renewable energy (not including hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018 — less than fossil fuel subsidies and an 11 percent decrease from 2017.
This is all bad news. The public seems to have the impression that while things are bad, they are finally accelerating toward something better. It’s not true. Collectively, we haven’t even succeeded in reversing direction yet. Despite all the progress described below, we’re still struggling to get ahold of the emergency brake.
Outside of electricity, good news is harder to come by. Where renewables are 26 percent of global electricity, they represent less than 10 percent (renewable electricity less than 2 percent) of heating and cooling and just 3.3 percent (renewable electricity only 0.3 percent) of transportation energy.
Heating and cooling, at 51 percent of global energy use, mostly run on natural gas and oil. Transportation, at 32 percent of global energy use, mostly runs on gasoline and diesel.
What’s worse, policy is still overbalanced toward power.
There are 169 countries, at the national or state/provincial level, that have passed renewable energy targets. Meanwhile, the report says, “only 47 countries had targets for renewable heating and cooling, while the number of countries with regulatory policies in the sector fell from 21 to 20.” Fewer than a third of all countries worldwide have mandatory building codes, “while 60% of the total energy used in buildings in 2018 occurred in jurisdictions that lacked energy efficiency policies.” Only about a quarter of industrial energy use is covered by industrial energy-efficiency policies.
It’s not much better in transportation, where “fuel economy policies for light-duty vehicles existed in only 40 countries by year’s end and have been largely offset by trends towards larger vehicles.”
Carbon pricing isn’t helping much either. “Carbon pricing remains acutely under-utilised,” the report says. “By the end of 2018, only 44 national governments, 21 states/provinces and 7 cities had implemented carbon pricing policies, covering just 13% of global CO2 emissions.”
This is the story in the US and in the world at large: Renewables are starting to make a dent in electricity, but they are lagging badly everywhere else.
I would put the chances of your grandchildren living as good a life as you are at right about 0%. The future of planet is on the line and we are effectively doing nothing. Democrats won’t even hold a debate about it. We are going to do absolutely nothing, even though it’s entirely possible that this will drive humans to extinction in a biologically very short time, in addition to most other species.