To avoid the worst of climate change’s disastrous effects, humanity needs to slash carbon emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere at a pace and scale often said to be eye-wateringly difficult, expensive, and even unlikely given the continued failure of political will. That’s the implication of the IPCC’s report, published this week, which concludes that a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures is now inevitable in 20 years.
The IPCC’s “best-case” scenario concludes that if we act fast, we might be able to gradually reduce temperatures back down to 1.4C by 2100. Yet this would keep us in the 1.5C climate danger zone for decades, which could risk triggering tipping points that could lead to irreversible and even more dangerous shifts in the climate system. Against this background, the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill has offered a watered down set of policies that simply won’t contribute to the scale of change required.
But a new report by technology forecasting think-tank RethinkX finds that the scope for change could be far larger and faster than either the IPCC or powerful governments like the United States realise: because the most powerful fossil fuel-based industries in the world—oil, gas, and coal; livestock farming; and combustion engines—are going to become obsolete purely due to extant economic factors well within the next 20 years. According to RethinkX, they are being increasingly disrupted by a cluster of clean technologies in the energy, transport and food sectors, which are rapidly becoming cheaper, more efficient, and as a result, more ubiquitous.
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