Thursday, July 23, 2015

Innovation Sputters in Battle Against Climate Change

A coal plant in northwest China. Technologies to limit the earth's warming are still in their infancy. (Credit: China Daily/Reuters ) Click to Enlarge.
In the race to develop technologies to slow climate change, the world is off track.

That’s the latest assessment from the International Energy Agency, which presented a bleak outlook ahead of the planned climate summit meeting in Paris this December, where countries rich and poor are hoping to agree on a strategy to slow global warming.

Even under the more optimistic assessments of humanity’s technological capabilities, limiting the atmosphere’s warming to two degrees Celsius above the average in the preindustrial era — considered by many scientists to be a tipping point toward climatic upheaval — seems to be slipping out of reach.

“For the first time since the I.E.A. started monitoring clean energy progress, not one of the technology fields tracked is meeting its objectives,” Maria van der Hoeven, the agency’s executive director, wrote in a foreword to the report.  “Our ability to deliver a future in which temperatures rise modestly is at risk of being jeopardized.”

Deployment of renewable energy is progressing, but not fast enough.  Nuclear power is behind the curve.  Key technologies like carbon capture and storage, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has deemed critical to staying within the target, are still in their infancy.

The only commercial scale coal-fired power plant equipped with carbon dioxide capture technology opened last October in Canada.  In the absence of a carbon price that might make removing carbon dioxide from the air a worthwhile investment, inventors in the United States hope they might make a profit by turning carbon dioxide into baking soda.

Perhaps most critically, the world’s collective effort to reshape energy infrastructure seems to be losing steam.  In 2014, global investments in renewable energy declined for the fourth year in a row, to under $250 billion.

The United States, the most technologically proficient nation on earth, could be expected to take the lead in developing new energy alternatives.  It isn’t.

Read more at Innovation Sputters in Battle Against Climate Change

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