Our dependency on fossil fuels will make net-zero impossible
Over a century's worth of fossil fuel consumption and a widely spread culture of industrial growth around the world means net-zero will require far more radical solutions than what is currently proposed. Our dependence on non-renewables is a tough habit to break.
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As of 2019, the world’s energy is 84% dependent on fossil fuels. This is a decrease from the previous decade, but the state of the downward trend is not promising when put against the various carbon neutral targets set for the middle of this century. There is progress, but not at the necessary rate. Transport is almost universally a high emitting sector. Still, little attention has been given to it compared to, say, industry, where the switch to low-emissions has a financial incentive. For example, the UK has taken a great interest in wind turbines, but renewable energy alone is not a sufficient tonic to the multifaceted nature of emissions. Then there are oil behemoths such as Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia who rely on fossil fuels for 100% of their energy needs. These nations are not likely to uproot their infrastructure and may well undo global operations. Of course, these countries are the only ones at the top of the emissions pyramid- at least 50 are dependent on fossil fuels for 85% of their energy. In many large cities around the world, this is apparent in the air: Indians and Singaporeans have been using face masks long before Covid to avoid toxic fumes exposure. An ethos of relentless urbanisation is to blame, without green countermeasures existing until recently. In this way, fossil-fuel use is a direct product of ever upscaling societies. Individual action is not enough- we need an ideological reformation. Past technological revelations such as the development of mass-produced vehicles and diesel, air travel, and gas heating need to be reworked from the ground up. This needs to be the focus above all else or net-zero will remain a fantasy.
Fossil fuel dependence will soon become outdated and outmoded. It has no choice- petrol, oil, and natural gas are finite resources, and we need an infrastructure in place before they become unviable. To give a sense of the time scale we’re dealing with- gas and oil reserves are projected to run out within just over 50 years, while coal will be gone in 150 years, taking into account increased production. But this reason is small when measured against the monumental impact of burning fossil fuels and extracting them in the first place. The effects are wide-ranging, from air pollution to habitat destruction and acidification of the sea, aside from the much-discussed increases in global temperature from greenhouse gasses. There’s no question that they need to be phased out- even major oil and gas companies realise this. BP, Shell and Chevron, and other oil giants have begun investing in green energy, as the energy market embraces for a change- both in public perception and sustainability. It’s not that they care particularly about saving the planet, the opposite is very evident, but BP has been researching renewable energy alternatives for decades. Fossil fuel dependency may have shaped the modern world, but the world is changing. Just as the Industrial Revolution ushered in an era of mass production and emissions, the Green Revolution will rock the foundations of ‘dirty energy.’
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