The tension is high in the fight against climate change, with CO2 levels about to reach 400 parts per million, and only heading higher after that. However, according to a recent report, ‘The Critical Decade’, by Australia’s Cimate Commission, China and the United States – the two largest emitters – are finally showing signs they are nearing serious action on climate.
In the past year, China has cut its electricity growth in half, and significantly boosted wind and solar energy production. The country is even crafting some emissions trading schemes that will cover more than 250 million people. Wind power generation in China has increased 50 times since 2005 (from a low base, sure).
Despite expanding drilling efforts, the United States has taken some strides in starting to transition away from oil, an effort mostly due to the cost but still a good move for the environment. The unintentionally slow economy has also helped lower emissions in the United States, and a desire to reduce foreign oil dependency has also increased the use of domestic gas. The U.S. has also doubled its renewable energy capacity since 2009.
Of course nobody is claiming there is not a LOT more work to be done on both ends. In the U.S. there is an ongoing heated debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry carbon-intensive tar sands oil to the U.S. from Canada. Esteemed climate scientist Dr James Hansen has warned that if this project goes ahead, it will basically be “game over” for climate.
Both countries need to be held accountable for emissions, and as they start to decline and renewable energy becomes more popular with the public, and cheaper, it is possible that the transition to low-carbon economies will come to be seen as easier than it is today.
Image: Public domain image (National Renewable Energy Laboratory): solar power tower