Renewable energy is winning and coal is on the skids. Disruption of the fossil fuel industry is well under way, and the global energy system is being decarbonised. We’re right on track, right?
To avoid dramatic climate system tipping points, the world needs to decarbonise very quickly and start drawing down the level of carbon in the atmosphere, because it’s already unsafe. As one dramatic example, in past periods when greenhouse levels were similar to the current level, temperatures were 3–6°C higher and sea levels around 25–40 metres higher than in 1900.
So climate warming is now an existential risk to human civilisation, that is, an adverse outcome that would either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential. It is now too late for incremental, measured steps to protect what we care about. Winning slowly is now the same as losing.
So how are we going with our energy system? It is the predominant source of the dramatic human-caused rise in the level of greenhouse gases, which over the last century has increased 70 percent, from 280 parts per million carbon dioxide equivalent (ppm CO2e) to 480 ppm CO2e.
The question is pertinent, with the Guardian reporting last week, “Rise in global carbon emissions a ‘big step backwards’, says BP” on news that global electricity emissions rose 1.6% in 2017 after flatlining for the previous three years, despite renewable power generation growing by 17% last year, because “strong economic growth led to above-average energy demand, coal use bounced back in China and efficiency gains slowed down, causing emissions to jump”.
And there was this from China: