Over the hump: Have we reached the peak of carbon emissions?

Daniel M. Kammen

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
September 8, 2020

Abstract: Recent news reports have focused on the so-called collapse of coal, which indeed is in free-fall in many nations. And it’s not limited to the news media; an International Energy Agency report said “… Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use.” Coal use is down to record low-levels in the United States. This decrease is also underway for oil and natural gas. Meanwhile, new solar and wind projects are up 4 percent since the start of the year, and the most affordable projects worldwide over the past three years have all been renewable energy installations. These cost trends, and the slow-down in demand for fossil-fuels that came with the COVID-19-induced recession tipped the balance in favor of clean, renewable energy – at least temporarily. But from here on in, much depends on what we do next: How will we respond to this accidental and costly emergency? Will we double-down on pollution and the racial injustices that are inherent with the use of fossil fuels? Or will we use this hiatus to craft a new, green, and job-creating economy?

Featured Fellows

Daniel Kammen

Energy and Resources Group, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley
Faculty Affiliate