A new report has revealed that while the global economy continued to grow throughout 2014, our collective carbon emissions stalled - something we haven't managed to do over the past 40 years. And the group behind the report - the International Energy Agency (IEA) - are putting it down to the serious uptake of renewable energy facilities by governments around the world.
While the actual amount of carbon we emitted is pretty sobering - 32.3 billion tonnes - it's unchanged from what we dished up in 2013, while the global economy saw a growth of 3 percent. The report shows three times in the past 40 years where carbon emissions remained unchanged from the previous year - once in the early 1980's, 1992 and 2009 - but this is the first time the event has been coupled with economic growth.
"This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one. It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth," IEA chief economist Fatih Birol, said in a press release. "This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today."
So what's changed? A big part of it, the researchers suggest, is China's serious uptake of renewable energy sources. Just last week, it was reported that China's wind farms are producing more energy than all of America's nuclear power plants combined, and enough to power 110 million homes. And they plan to more than double their current wind energy production by 2020.
Meanwhile, researchers in the US have figured out that it's economically viable to provide 10 percent of the of the national energy requirements through wind farms by 2020, and in less than 40 years, they could be running on over 30 percent wind power.
As well as the increasing uptake of renewable energy by the biggest nations on the planet, people are actually getting smarter about their energy use, and appliance manufacturers and doing their bit too. A recent report by the US Energy Information Administration has predicted that in the United States, the average energy use per person will decline throughout 2012 to 2040 to a level not seen since 1965. They say more energy-efficient appliances and cars are having a significant effect.
"For the first time demand is untethered to GDP," Alex Laskey, the president of Opower, a liaison company between utility providers and customers, told Chris Mooney at The Washington Post. "And that's because of efficiency, self generation, and so on… we can make do with less."
So… good job, humans? Not that we can celebrate for too long, because climate change is still very much real and and still very much wreaking havoc on the planet, but reports like this are so important in proving to ourselves that things don't have to keep getting worse.
Source: The Washington Post