The prices of solar and wind energy, and electric vehicle batteries, have dropped significantly since 2010, the report finds. The result is that it may now be “more expensive” in some cases to maintain highly polluting energy systems than to switch to clean sources, the report says.
In 2020, solar and wind provided close to 10 percent of the world’s electricity. Average worldwide emissions grew much more slowly in the 2010s than they did in the 2000s, partly because of greater use of green energy.
It wasn’t obvious to scientists that this would happen so swiftly. In a 2011 report on renewables, the same panel noted that technological advances would probably make green energy cheaper, though it said it was hard to predict how much.
Still, altering the climate path won’t be easy or cheap.
The world needs to invest three to six times more than it’s currently spending on mitigating climate change if it wants to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the report says. Money is particularly short in poorer countries, which need trillions of dollars of investment each year this decade.
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Deadly combination. Global warming is greatly increasing the risk that extreme wildfires in the American West will be followed by heavy rainfall, a new study has found, highlighting the need to be prepared for mudslides and flash floods after the flames from severe blazes are out.
Ice shelf collapses. For the first time since satellites began observing Antarctica nearly half a century ago, an ice shelf has collapsed on the eastern part of the continent. The 450-square-mile ice shelf was located in an area known as Wilkes Land; the loss occurred in mid-March.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. A wide stretch of the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by a sixth mass bleaching event, an alarming indicator that the area is under intense stress from the waters around them, which have been growing steadily warmer as a result of climate change..
As nations drop fossil fuels, some economic disruption is inevitable, the report notes. Resources will be left in the ground unburned; mines and power plants will become financially unviable. The economic impact could be in the trillions of dollars, the report says.
Even so, simply keeping planned and existing fossil-fuel infrastructure up and running will pump enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to make it impossible to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the report says.
There are other steps that could help and wouldn’t break the bank.
The report looks at a host of other changes to societies that could reduce emissions, including more energy-efficient buildings, more recycling and more white-collar work going remote and virtual.