While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some positive news in terms of the environment, research shows that pollution is still a very real problem.
Though a lot of work still needs to be done, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter is detailing why hope still remains in the fight against climate change. According to the researchers, efforts put into place in two key areas -- lighter road transportation and power -- will likely benefit the environment for years to come.
“We have left it too late to tackle climate change incrementally,” said researcher Tim Lenton. “Limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius now requires transformational change and a dramatic acceleration process.”
Tipping towards environmental advancements
Lenton and his team are optimistic about the future of climate change because of what they refer to as “tipping points.” They explained that this happens when several small changes build on top of one another to create one lasting change. When it comes to climate change, the researchers anticipate tipping points to occur in the areas of power and lighter road transportation. In both cases, policy-led interventions have already been put into place to help set the scales in motion that will eventually create long-term change.
In looking at power, the researchers explained that countries around the world are working to make coal plants a thing of the past. On a global scale, renewable energy sources are proving to be a more cost-effective method of generating power, which is minimizing the benefits associated with coal and fossil fuels.
As these efforts continue, and renewable energy is utilized more and more, the researchers predict that there will no longer be any financial benefits of using coal or in maintaining coal plants. In time, the widespread use of solar or wind-powered energy will tip the scales and make coal-fueled power obsolete.
The researchers anticipate a similar tipping point to occur when electric cars are more widely used by consumers. Currently, the manufacturing costs of electric cars are making it difficult for them to be more accessible to car buyers. However, offsetting these costs is possible; the researchers explained that legislators in parts of the world that generate the highest car sales -- California, China, and the European Union -- can work together to mass-produce electric cars and lower costs.
“If either of these efforts -- in power or road transport -- succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change,” Lenton said.