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Green technologies need to proliferate 10 times faster to prevent 2°C rises

Green technologies will need to be installed at a rate 10 times faster than at present if global temperature increases are to be limited to 2°C, according to a study from Duke University.

The Paris Agreement, a climate accord signed by nearly 200 countries which came into effect in November, aims to limit global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with an ambition of limiting temperature rises even further to 1.5°C. 

But the United Nations later said in a report that current greenhouse emissions will exceed that which is needed to keep global warming in check by 2030 unless the pace at which emissions are curbed is not increased. 

“Based on our calculations, we won’t meet the climate warming goals set by the Paris Agreement unless we speed up the spread of clean technology by a full order of magnitude, or about ten times faster than in the past,” said Gabriele Manoli, who led the Duke University study.

“Radical new strategies to implement technological advances on a global scale and at unprecedented rates are needed if current emissions goals are to be achieved.”

The study used delayed differential equations to calculate the pace at which global per capita emissions of carbon dioxide have increased since the Second Industrial Revolution, a period of rapid industrialization at the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th.

The researchers then compared this pace to the speed of new innovations in low-carbon-emitting technologies.

Using these historical trends coupled with projections of future global population growth, Manoli and his colleagues were able to estimate the likely pace of future emissions increases and also determine the speed at which climate-friendly technological innovation and implementation must occur to hold warming below the Paris Agreement’s target.

“It’s no longer enough to have emissions-reducing technologies,” he said. “We must scale them up and spread them globally at unprecedented speeds.”

The analysis shows that per-capita CO2 emissions have increased about 100 per cent every 60 years, typically in big jumps, since the Second Industrial Revolution. This “punctuated growth” has occurred largely because of time lags in the spread of emission-curbing technological advances, which are compounded by the effects of rapid population growth.

“Sometimes these lags are technical in nature, but—as recent history amply demonstrates—they also can be caused by political or economic barriers,” Manoli explained. “Whatever the cause, our quantification of the delays historically associated with such challenges shows that a tenfold acceleration in the spread of green technologies is now necessary to cause some delay in the Doomsday Clock.”

An electricity grid system that relies solely on renewable energy production that works in all regions of the world was successfully simulated by Finnish researchers last year. 

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