Energy Transition

Overview

Over the past couple of centuries, there have been vast improvements in living standards across many parts of the world, brought about in part by the availability of abundant cheap energy and easy access to Earth resources without the true environmental costs being factored inadequately.

Most of us have come to rely on affordable energy to fuel our lifestyles.  However, this privilege is not shared ubiquitously. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), approximately 850 million people remain left behind. This has immense impacts on societies across the world where industries, businesses, schools, hospitals and entire cities cannot prosper equally without access to electricity.

The UN predicts by 2050, there will be 9,735,033,900 people living on the planet. Achieving equally high standards of living as those enjoyed by many in developed nations, may be challenging and will inevitably put even greater stress on people, nature and the planet. 

The negative legacy of fossil fuels is evident in its long-term impact on the world’s climate, as well as local pockets of poor air quality, polluted land, water pollution and proliferation of plastics which lurk and poison many of the most precious ecosystems in the world. According to the UN, Energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil Fuels are so energy-effective (cost-efficient) they have power over all of us and almost everyone uses petroleum products consciously or non-consciously on a daily basis.

As many economies have developed, created expensive infrastructure to extract, process and supply and finance this readily available energy supply, it is hard for us to break our reliance and disentangle it from our daily routines. 

Averting a climatic disaster

“The UNFCCC secretariat (UN Climate Change) is the United Nations entity tasked with supporting the global response to the threat of climate change. UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Convention has near-universal membership (197 Parties) and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep the global average temperature rise this century as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UNFCCC is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The ultimate objective of all three agreements under the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame that allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development“(UNFCCC).

Sound Science

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – The Science Says:

Global Warming of 1.5°C
The IPCC state that “Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a
likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase
at the current rate. (high confidence).

Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and
will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea-level rise, with associated impacts (high
confidence), but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence).

Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present but lower than at
2°C (high confidence). These risks depend on the magnitude and rate of warming, geographic location, levels of development
and vulnerability, and on the choices and implementation of adaptation and mitigation options (high confidence).”

UN Climate Change Conference COP26 - Outcomes

Secretary-General’s Statement on the Conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26

  • “We must accelerate action to keep the 1.5 degree goal alive.
  • Our fragile planet is hanging by a thread.
  • We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe.
  • It is time to go into emergency mode — or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.
  • I reaffirm my conviction that we must end fossil fuels subsidies.
  • Phase out coal.
  • Put a price on carbon.
  • Build resilience of vulnerable communities against the here and now impacts of climate change.
  • And make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to support developing countries.
  • We did not achieve this”.

“The social and economic benefits of accelerating clean energy transitions are huge, and the costs of inaction are immense.” Fatih Birol IEA Executive Director

Aiming for Net Zero by 2050 is seen as the benchmark to averting a climate catastrophe. One good source of information about possible pathways to net Zero can be found here.

The IUGS recognise that geoscientists need to play a strong role in helping accelerate the transition to renewable energies if we are to meet our net-zero targets in the foreseeable future. Countless energy transition conferences and meetings have been held over the past few years and we do not want to re-invent the wheel. IUGS wants to look at barriers to progress (social/ technological and time) and to try to look at how we can invigorate our members to work together from the individual to government level to support the science and the positive willpower and drive to make things happen. We will be hosting a series of workshops and presentations throughout 2022 to explore how we can work internationally to share knowledge and skills and comms. Watch this space.

First 12 topics to be discussed

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