The Numbers You Should Know About CleanTech & The Climate Crisis

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The global energy transition is progressing robustly, but it’s unlikely that timely climate goals delineated in the 2015 Paris Agreement will be achieved. In fact, if the current rate of carbon emissions continues, there’s a 50% chance the world will breach the 1.5°C warming threshold by the end of this decade. The numbers about fossil fuels, renewable energy transitions, and cleantech innovations are quite illuminating and frequently contradictory, but together they offer a big picture of the energy transition that is taking place around us.

There is still hope, albeit fleeting.

7 trillion: Fossil fuel subsidies have surged in recent years. In 2022, total spending on subsidies for oil, natural gas, and coal reached a record $7 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund. The tricky part is that the majority of subsidies are implicit — the true numbers show that governments don’t require fossil fuel companies to pay for the health and environmental damage that their products inflict on society. At the same time, countries continue pumping public and private money into fossil fuel production. This month, a UN report found that governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with the 1.5 degree target.

1.1 trillion and 1.2 trillion: Global climate investments — including both private and public spending — surged to $1.1 trillion in 2021 and $1.4 trillion in 2022, according to the latest analysis from the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), an international advocacy group. That’s a near doubling from the previous 2 years.

$650 billion: There is a global market opportunity for key mass manufactured clean energy technologies worth around $650 billion a year by 2030 – more than 3 times today’s level – if countries worldwide fully implement their announced energy and climate pledges, the IEA projects. Related clean energy manufacturing jobs would more than double from 6 million today to nearly 14 million by 2030, with over half of these jobs tied to electric vehicles, solar PV, wind, and heat pumps. As clean energy transitions advance beyond 2030, this would lead to further rapid industrial and employment growth.

37.2 billion tons: Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels hit a new high of 37.2 billion tons last year. Rates of renewable energy generation are also surging, though, and many energy experts now consider the transition away from fossil fuels all but inevitable. According to Nature, this is one of the few bright spots heading into COP28, which begins on November 30, 2023.

$3.9 billion: The US aging electric grid infrastructure is being strengthened with $3.9 billion directed to dedicated projects through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This investment supports projects that use innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure to enhance grid resilience and reliability.

7000 lobbyist visits: Disclosed delegates tied to the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas firms and their trade groups have attended UN-led climate talks at least 7200 times over the last 20 years, according to a new analysis from the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition. Just days ahead of COP28, an event already mired in controversy in part due to the fossil fuel boss at its helm, the analysis shines a light on the concerted and obstructive presence of the fossil fuel lobby at the heart of efforts to avert total climate collapse.

45% and 90% methane: In China, methane emissions in coal mining account for 90% of total energy industry methane emissions and 45% of the country’s total methane emissions, making it the world’s largest producer of anthropogenic coal mine methane emissions. The Chinese government is preparing to publish a roadmap to cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, before the COP28 summit. The focus on methane is significant because even though it has a shorter atmospheric lifetime – roughly a decade as compared to carbon dioxide’s 300 to 1,000 years – it has a stronger influence on the climate.

15% and 22% renewable energy generation: In the US and Europe,  fossil-fueled power generation has been declining for years, especially coal. The rapid growth of renewable energy has played a major role. The US made 15% of its electricity from wind and solar energy last year, which is slightly more than the global average. Wind turbines and solar panels generated 22% of the European Union’s electricity last year, up from less than 1% two decades ago.

14 years but 55 tons: Although the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides generous tax credits for consumers to buy EVs, the average US vehicle owner hangs on to their gas-powered car for almost 14 years, during which it continues to spew tailpipe pollution. Then again, over its lifetime, my Tesla Model Y will avoid nearly 55 tons of CO2e.

2 degrees: For a fleeting and alarming moment, on Friday, November 17 global warmth crossed a threshold in which temperatures averaged more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above a historic norm from a time before humans started consuming fossil fuels and emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases.

$1.7 vs. $1: Clean energy momentum is moving faster than many people realize, and investment trends show a strong pull for clean technologies away from fossil fuels, according to IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “For every dollar invested in fossil fuels, about 1.7 dollars are now going into clean energy. Five years ago, this ratio was one-to-one,” Birol reveals. “One shining example is investment in solar, which is set to overtake the amount of investment going into oil production for the first time.”

1.5 degrees: These are the degrees in Celsius of heating over preindustrial levels. If we keep to our current energy consumption habits, the world will likely hit that milestone by the end of the decade. Instead of a “catastrophic threshold” for life on Earth, Amy Martin, founder and executive producer of Threshold, a Peabody Award–winning documentary podcast that explores human relationships with the natural world, argues, “Working relentlessly to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C—even if we temporarily surpass it—is choosing to reduce suffering for people and life on the planet as a whole.”

The richest 1%: In 2019 the richest 1% of the world’s population produced as much carbon pollution than the 5 billion people who made up the poorest two-thirds of humanity, reveals a new Oxfam report. These outsized emissions of the richest 1% will cause 1.3 million heat-related excess deaths. “The Super Rich are plundering and polluting the planet to the point of destruction, leaving humanity choking on extreme heat, floods, and drought,” stresses Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.

1 ingredient: Media hype aside, there is a lot of hopeful progress happening in the plant based foods sector. Take The Only Bean, for example. Available in three varieties, each offering is only made with one ingredient: edamame, soybeans, or black soybeans. One ingredient pasta delivers more nutrition at a lower environmental cost. Beans are one of the most sustainable crops. They enrich the soil and provide 15x more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production. These pastas are also USDA organic certified, non-GMO, gluten-free noodles that are keto friendly, low carb, grain-free, and kosher. And they’re delicious!

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