, September 27, 2021

UK halves its carbon footprint, and better news will follow


  •   2 min reads
UK halves its carbon footprint, and better news will follow

The UK's carbon footprint is half the level it was at in 1990; this is good news indeed; but the news will get better.

There is a parallel with Covid vaccinations. At first, the roll-out is slow; then it gets faster, then super-fast, and eventually, applied globally. The way technology and learning rates have been combined is perhaps the best example of good news we have seen so far this century. It will be like VE Day soon. I have similarly good news on climate change, and for once, let's celebrate and acknowledge a stunning achievement— no cynicism, just time for mutual back-slapping.

According to a Carbon Brief report, the UK's carbon emissions is now at 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, compared to 800 million tonnes in 1990.

The UK's target is net-zero by 2050; according to this data, it is on track.

But I think the news is even better than that. I reckon that technology advances and learning rates will combine so that the UK can meet its target far sooner.

Caveats

Let me add a few problems...

... for one thing, the data doesn't include international aviation and expected changes to the UK's greenhouse gas inventory.
Perhaps more pertinently, it doesn't include the carbon footprint of products consumed in the UK and made overseas. This is an especially important point vis-a-vis China.  China's carbon footprint is enormous, but mainly that is because it is the world's factory.  By importing from China, we effectively export our carbon emissions.

Covid and associated lockdowns also supported falling CO2 levels last year.

On the other hand

As the energy cost from renewables continues to fall, I expect the take-up of renewables to accelerate.

Electric vehicle take-up will go crazy later this decade. By mid-decade, the economic benefits of owning an electric vehicle will be so overwhelming that demand for new internal combustion engine cars will collapse. By the end of this decade, the cost of running an electric vehicle will be so low that they may even represent a cheaper alternative than buying a second-hand car.

Some barriers need overcoming — such as the use of renewables in steel manufacturing.

But technology's impact is never gradual — it reaches a tipping point, and then its effect is virtually instantaneous.

People expect the impact of technology to be gradual — bit by bit. That is not how technology progress works. Sure the innovations are gradual and incremental, but we see periodic tipping points leading to revolutionary applications of technology.

It is great news that the UK is half-way there. I think it can achieve its target much sooner than 2050.

The real challenge lies in getting its CO2 level down to zero after taking into account the carbon footprint of products it consumes but are made overseas

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