Monday 25 January 2021
When we look back on the 2010’s, we’ll lament the lost time. The opportunity cost of the time wasted as climate denialists held up the policy process and stopped governments around the world from tackling the underlying causes of climate change head on. However as we enter the 2020’s, there is some good news. Climate denialism is being reduced as a political force. The devastation of the fires of 2020 (at unprecedented levels in Australia, California, Brazil and Siberia), the disruption to wildlife (locus swarms across the Horn of Africa and birds dropping out of the sky in America) and the institutionalisation of climate concern across big business have all conspired to leave very little space for political leaders that deny the reality of climate change.
At the same time, many of the curves are bending in the right direction. Slowly, too slowly, but bending all the same. A decade ago, the ‘business as usual’ path would’ve brought the world 4-5 degrees of warming. Now, the ‘business as usual’ path is estimated to result in 3 degrees of warming. The cost curve for renewables is also bending, with decades of government and private sector investment in research and innovation starting to pay off. The International Energy Agency recently declared that solar is “the cheapest electricity in history” and with such a reduction in cost has seen an acceleration in the decline of coal. The IEA is projecting that India will build 86% less new coal power than it projected just one year ago.
This isn’t to say that we’re out of the woods yet. Some level of warming is now inevitable and radical steps are required to ensure this warming is kept as low as possible. There are still challenges to overcome, storage of renewable energy and transforming our transport systems being two major ones. Yet, after years of inaction and political gridlock, we should be encouraged by the progress that has been made and remain hopeful about the work that is still to come.