Progress in the battle against climate change: success stories from the frontline

 

The media is awash with news of current and imminent climatic devastation. Not only is “doomwashing” dangerous (creating feelings of hopelessness leading to inaction) but it also fails to acknowledge the more interesting story; success. Over the past five decades since scientists first raised alarm on climate change, significant progress has been made in combating it.

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Renewable energy has become cheaper than fossil fuels in many countries (Blakers, et al, 2019; Ginn, 2018; Gimon, et al, 2019). Every year consumers are opting for more sustainable products. Even the largest oil company in the world, Shell, is bowing to shareholder pressure to invest in renewables and energy efficient transportation (Peters, 2018). Sweden has shown strong commitment towards eliminating fossil fuels by 2040; Germany decided it could do better shutting down its coal industry by 2038. In fact Germany’s renewables have now outsized coal. Recently on a windy, sunny day renewables generated 77% of the nation’s electricity supply (Wettengel, 2019). A similar thing happened here in Australia. On July 22nd, a sunny, cool day across the country, renewables contributed 44% to the national grid (Kohler, 2019). Indeed, global CO2 emissions from power production flatlined in 2019 despite the global economy expanding (Chestney, 2020). When it comes to the combustion engine, France is looking to ban all sales by 2040, the UK by 2035 and Norway by 2025.

Industry taking up the challenge

Project Gigaton, launched by Walmart in 2017, is an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 1 billion tons from the global value chain by 2030. As of April 2019, the project had reduced 93 million tons or nearly 10% of the total 2030 goal in less than 2 years. Over 200 suppliers have joined in the effort in making everyday products like soap, refrigerators, and laundry detergents sustainable. For example, Tide has invested in reformulating their laundry detergent to clean well in a cold wash, recognising that up to 90% of a washing machine’s energy use goes toward heating water. Unilever has managed to incorporate nearly 50% recycled materials in their plastic packaging. Kellogg is training half a million US farmers in agricultural techniques that lower greenhouse gas emissions and Budweiser has built a massive wind farm in Oklahoma producing enough electricity to cover all their beer production in the US.

The journey has begun

We have started this journey towards a sustainable future. We have a long way to go but getting started was a big step. Just recently, mainstream thinking seems to have changed towards recognising the issue and now wanting to take action. The strategies of business and policy makers are now recognising this and attempting to catch up. As they do, momentum will accelerate.

References

Blakers, A., Stocks, M., Lu, B., Cheng, C., 2019. “Renewable energy update.” Energy News. Vol 37.

Chestney, N., 2020. “Global CO2 emissions flatten.” The Australian. Retrieved from:https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/global-co2-emissions-flatten/news-story/93d63821db59e947a0df07a15c509d5f

Gimon, E. & O’Boyle, M., Clack, C.T., McKee, S., 2019. “The coal cost crossover: Economic viability of existing coal compared to new local wind and solar resources.” Energy innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy. Retrieved from: https://energyinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Coal-Cost-Crossover_Energy-Innovation_VCE_FINAL.pdf

Ginn, C., 2018. “Annual update finds renewables are cheapest new-build power.” CSIRO. Retrieved from:  https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Annual-update-finds-renewables-are-cheapest-new-build-power

Kohler, A., August 2019. “Why we’re power-poor but renewables rich.” The Australian. Retrieved from: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/energy-paucity-amid-renewables-plenty/news-story/a5bba58de70e5f9d67616738bf8c1246

Peters, A., 2018. “Is it possible for an oil company to help fight climate change?” Fast Company. Retrieved from: https://www.fastcompany.com/90249937/is-it-possible-for-an-oil-company-to-help-fight-climate-change

Wettengel, J., April 2019. “Renewables hit record 77 percent of German power on Easter Monday.” Clean energy wire. Retrieved from:

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/renewables-hit-record-77-percent-german-power-easter-monday

 

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