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The end of the coal comes faster than you think

The past few months have shown the consequences of decades of climate failure: heat waves, forest fires and floods. The mounting catastrophe occurred as the world's climate scientists loudly reiterated a harsh truth in the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report: The opportunities to stop the warming that is already damaging communities around the world are shrinking – and fast.

The IPCC report tells two stories. The first is the inevitability of warming, largely due to the 2,390 gigatons of carbon dioxide already emitted and the inevitable emissions in the coming years. The second is about the chance that we will avoid worse damage and keep warming below critical levels. Far too much – if not all – of the media coverage of the report's release has centered on the former, with an ugly touch of defeat and inevitability.

The past few months have shown the consequences of decades of climate failure: heat waves, forest fires and floods. The mounting catastrophe occurred as the world's climate scientists loudly reiterated a harsh truth in the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report: The opportunities to stop the warming that is already damaging communities around the world are shrinking – and fast.

The IPCC report tells two stories. The first is the inevitability of warming, largely due to the 2,390 gigatons of carbon dioxide already emitted and the inevitable emissions in the coming years. The second is about the chance that we will avoid worse damage and keep warming below critical levels. Far too much – if not all – of the media coverage of the report's release has centered on the former, with an ugly touch of defeat and inevitability.

The combination of the physical consequences of climate change depicted in high definition on social media and television with the certainty of warnings from climate scientists is terrifying. There will be fear, fear, and sadness this week – and it will be justified. But the hidden danger of this moment is that fear can turn into defeatism. And at worst, defeatism can become "doomism," a term used to express the pseudoscientific belief in the inevitability of our planet's collapse. But to say that we have already lost and that future action will not change anything is not only wrong – it is exactly what the fossil fuel industry would like you to believe.

Pleading for hope and optimism are also difficult. Pollyannas with good intentions often follow the same strange determinism as the vanquished. They have a predictable list of promises: renewables are cheap and getting cheaper, or electric vehicles are getting more affordable, or emissions have hit “highs”. Sit back and relax, say the optimists, it's a cruise on the decarbonization slide pulled down by the pull of the free market.

Neither of these positions is a good representation of the state of global emissions. Both rely on fate and downplay the potential futures that open up before us – which depend entirely on how hard everyone struggles for a safer future.

We already know that climate protection has led to a reduction in emissions in the past. Clear evidence of this can be found in the historical records of the International Energy Agency's (IEA) annual projections of the World Energy Outlook. The IEA once painted a bleak look into the future that could have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. But above all, the IEA's earlier visions of the future never came to fruition.

In the 2008 edition of the World Energy Outlook, the IEA forecast in terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity generation that in 2020 970 TWh wind power, 111 TWh solar energy and 12,442 TWh coal in their "reference" scenario, in which no new government policies are implemented. For the current year there were 1,590 TWh wind, 844 TWh solar and 8,736 TWh coal.

The IEA has been heavily criticized for underestimating the growth of renewables and overestimating that of coal, oil and gas, and has only recently changed its forecasts. As Simon Evans, a climate analyst, recently reflected on Twitter: “Contrary to the oft-repeated notion that the world has made little progress on climate change, there is a huge difference between where we are today and 'current trends' like 6C & # 39; Expected in 2008. "

Another example comes from the U.S. Annual Energy Outlook. Energy Information Administration, which contains a forecast of coal capacity in the United States. Those projections, lumped into a single chart, look ridiculous – each year's predictions turned out to be wrong the following year. The same is true of the Australian Government Resource Agency's coal mine production projections. Energy modellers believed coal would boom in 2021, but instead it is stalling as demand likely peaked in 2013.

Granted, some countries in Asia are still planning to expand their coal fleets. However, this growth was offset by surprising and rapid declines in coal power production in Europe and North America. Overall, coal-fired power fluctuated each year, but the net effect was a slow decline.

Coal is undoubtedly starting to crumble. Nothing can turn this around, even as the industry escalates panic rebranding efforts and continues to peddle its old tale that coal is “required” for network reliability to a shrinking audience. The burning of coal to generate electricity, one of the single largest causes of climate disasters that dominate our food supply, is likely on the verge of a global systemic collapse. Because it will soon be more expensive to operate a coal-fired power plant than to build new renewables and rely on them instead.

We have known for a decade that coal power is no longer needed to run a reliable power grid. A recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency found that around 800 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants – about 40 percent of total global capacity – could be decommissioned and replaced with wind and solar power at significantly lower costs – including the cost of installing these new technologies . If these coal-fired power plants were replaced, this change would mean one-fifth of the total global emissions reductions needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Cheap renewables undercut coal as climate and energy activists clenched their teeth and clenched fists for the subsidies, policies, and deliveries that made them cheap. New coal-fired power plants and mines are becoming increasingly difficult to finance because brave activists occupied banks that kept trying to lend them money. The old IEA predictions of a fossil fuel boom in 2020 failed because we made them fail.

Today the battle is about the decline in fossil fuels. The coal, oil and gas industries are pushing to make their decline as slow as possible. Each day of delay leads to more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – that means more red skies, more towering flames on Greek islands, and more roads that turn into rivers. The oil and gas industry, which is not quite as wounded as coal, sees the greatest hope in these delaying tactics.

The latest campaign to put the world on the path of "very slow decline" is insidious and clever. International oil companies such as Shell and Chevron present "Net Zero" plans that rely heavily on improbable and highly suspicious CO2 offsets, use accounting tricks such as "Intensity Targets" or only address emissions from the production of fossil fuels (instead of the majority of emissions, resulting from their use). "There is no doubt that positive headlines drive business," said global energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie last month of corporate carbon offsetting programs. "For a modest bonus, companies were rewarded with a broad coverage of their green references."

Shell's energy transition strategy has been touted as a shining example of corporate climate ambition by the Church of England's Pension Committee, but my own analysis for the Australasian Center for Corporate Responsibility showed that the company's emissions targets would lead to emissions flattening by at least 2030 the company was up for showered positive coverage of its “net zero” plan, it all fell apart earlier this year when a Dutch court ruled that the company must reduce its actual emissions by at least 45 percent by 2030, rather than tacitly preferring 0 percent.

Recently, an Exxon lobbyist was covertly taped who gleefully admitted funding climate change denial, maliciously advocating a carbon tax, and actively trying to block wind, solar and electric vehicles. Days later, it was revealed that Exxon was about to announce a net-zero target.

Shell's Greenwashing and Exxon's tragicomedy represent two brands of the same project – delaying climate change by simply insisting that the right thing be done in the hope that no one will notice the deception. Both also represent failed corporate tactics. The modern incarnation of climate denial – predatory delay – is rapidly losing its power, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of advocates and activists.

Increasingly, companies and countries are being targeted and scrutinized that are eager to set goals but do not make any significant changes. For example, a recent report by the Climate Action 100+ group named and shamed these companies, highlighting the fact that not a single one of the hundreds of companies it analyzed had allocated capital in a way that would help reduce global temperatures to 1, 5 ° C limit degrees Celsius.

Neither the disasters nor the IPCC report tell us about the patchy, patchy, but rapidly escalating successes of the climate movement that is shaking the foundations of the fossil fuel industry. They are not telling us how the made-up narrative of necessity that industry has woven unfolds before the eyes of concerned executives.

What we now know is that these victories are far more accessible than we ever realized – a truth that should accelerate the path from helplessness to action for many. The pressure on companies and countries at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November 2021 will be immense – probably greater than at any previous climate meeting.

Climate protection is no longer limited to the annoying dichotomy of individual versus systemic action. For anyone who would like to help, there is a spectrum of possible investments, ranging from local changes such as more bike paths to systemic changes such as blocking lending to fossil fuel projects. Those who are fighting on the side of climate protection do not yet need to be fully aware of their power.

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