Living with climate change: Turning the corner


VCG/Getty By Catherine Brahic HUMANITY’S appetite for energy has driven up the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But here’s the good news: last year, emissions from energy use stayed flat for the third year in a row. Overall emissions, including from industry, grew less than 1 per cent for the third year in a row. Energy emissions have stabilised or dropped at three other times in recent history, but only in economic downturns (see diagram). This time, the world economy is growing. At last count, 21 nations were seeing this “decoupling” of energy emissions and economic growth, including the UK, France, Germany and the US. What’s going on? For a start, king coal is dying. The biggest fall has come in the US, where this dirtiest of fossil fuels is being pushed out by gas and renewables. In China and India – growing economies with huge energy appetites – concern over air pollution are playing a part. Satellite images show that, in India for example, construction of some new coal power stations appears to have been abandoned. Renewables are also winning. Cheaper, more efficient turbines and photovoltaics mean that wind and solar energy cost the same or less to produce compared with fossil fuel power in more than 30 countries, even without government subsidies. According the World Economic Forum,
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