Sweden tops the ranking for the third year in a row.
What does COVID-19 mean for the energy transition? While lockdowns have caused a temporary fall in CO2 emissions, the pandemic risks derailing recent progress in addressing the world's energy challenges.
WEF Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2020 edition<h3>The 10 countries most prepared for the energy transition</h3><p>Sweden tops the overall ETI ranking for the third consecutive year as the country most ready to transition to clean energy, followed by Switzerland and Finland. There has been little change in the top 10 since the last report, which demonstrates the energy stability of these developed nations, although the gap with the lowest-ranked countries is closing.</p><p>Top-ranked countries share a reduced reliance on imported energy, lower energy subsidies and a strong political commitment to transforming their energy sector to meet climate targets.</p><p>The UK and France are the only two G20 economies in the top 10 however, which is otherwise made up of smaller nations.</p><p>Powerful shocks Outside the top 10, progress has been modest in Germany. Ranked 20th, the country has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants and moving industrial output to cleaner fuels such as hydrogen, but making energy services affordable remains a struggle.</p>
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images<h3>China currently has the world's largest solar PV capacity</h3><p>China, ranked 78th, has made strong advances in controlling CO2 emissions by switching to electric vehicles and investing heavily in solar and wind energy - it currently has the world's largest solar PV and onshore wind capacity. Alongside China, countries including Argentina, India and Italy have shown consistent strong improvements every year. Gains over time have also been recorded by Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kenya and Oman, among others.</p><p>But high energy-consuming countries including the US, Canada and Brazil show little, if any, progress towards an energy transition.</p><p>In the US (ranked 32nd), moves to establish a more sustainable energy sector have been hampered by policy decisions. Neighbouring Canada grapples with the conflicting demands of a growing economy and the need to decarbonize the energy sector.</p><p>The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of the impact of external shocks on the global economy. As climate change increases the likelihood of weather extremes such as floods, droughts and violent storms, the need for more sustainable energy practices is intensified.</p><p>Policy-makers need to develop a robust framework for energy transition at local, national and international levels, capable of guarding against such shocks.</p><p>"The coronavirus pandemic offers an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy markets, and global collaboration to support a recovery that accelerates the energy transition once the acute crisis subsides," says Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy & Materials at the World Economic Forum.</p><p>"This giant reset grants us the option to launch aggressive, forward-thinking and long-term strategies leading to a diversified, secure and reliable energy system that will ultimately support the future growth of the world economy in a sustainable and equitable way."</p><p>Reprinted with permission of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>. Read the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/energy-transition-index-2020-eti-clean-sustainable-power/" target="_blank">original article</a>.</p>
There's a lot we can do with current technology to help stem the tide of climate change, but future technology may help even more.
- Part of what makes fighting climate change so hard is that solutions take years or even decades to develop.
- Meanwhile, the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere means that climate change has momentum on its side, and its effects are already being felt.
- However, quantum computing would represent a breakthrough that could cut down on the time needed to research and develop solutions exponentially, turning the work of decades into years or less.
What is quantum computing?<p>At the fundamental level, classical computers use bits to operate, simple pieces of binary information that can have two values: 0 or 1. Quantum computers take advantage of quantum particles' weird ability to exist in <a href="https://www.wired.co.uk/article/quantum-computing-explained" target="_blank">several states simultaneously</a>. Rather than represent a 0 or 1, a "qubit" can exist as both simultaneously. </p><p>Imagine you have four bits. Together, those four bits can have one of 16 possible combinations, such as 1011. Four qubits, however, can be in all 16 combinations at once. As more qubits get involved, these potential values grow exponentially, meaning that our computing power grows exponentially as well. </p><p>There's quite a bit more involved, but the important thing to know is that quantum computers absolutely smoke classical computers when solving complicated problems. Some problems exist that would take a classical computer literally millions of years to solve that a quantum computer could solve in days or less. Solving these problems are the ones that are going to help us address climate change.</p>
1. Deploying better CO2-scrubbing compounds<p>The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that cutting CO2 emissions <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12102018/global-warming-solutions-negative-emissions-carbon-capture-technology-ipcc-climate-change-report" target="_blank">isn't enough</a> to stop climate change; we'll need to remove the CO2 that's already in the atmosphere. To a large extent, we can accomplish this by planting more trees, but this isn't a perfect solution. Trees take a long time to grow (and sequester carbon in so doing), can be prone to fires (which will become more common as the Earth warms), and are tempting targets for logging (which emits CO2).</p><p>Using chemical catalysts to capture CO2 for storage or to convert it into useful products is one way to overcome this. But existing catalysts tend to be made of expensive materials or are difficult to deploy. It'd be a huge step if we could identify cheaper, easier-to-make compounds that can scrub CO2 from the atmosphere more effectively.</p><p>But here, we run into a problem. Accurately simulating chemical compounds takes a lot of processing power. Every atom added to a compound makes simulation <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/quantum-computing-applications-climate-change/" target="_blank">exponentially more difficult</a>, requiring us to use our best guesses in a tedious trial and error process instead. Currently, quantum computers can simulate simple compounds with a few dozen qubits. Experts claim that if we could scale that up to around a million qubits, we would likely be able to simulate the compounds that are likely to be more effective at capturing CO2.</p>
2. Developing better batteries<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjQ5ODYyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzc4NzcxMn0.utiPcb6M0dUz6mM5wSWVnIlRC2HbaGidZ9MmsnI-yYg/img.jpg?width=980" id="bc901" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccb8f16fc49b0f5118f089aaade47477" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="IBM Quantum computer" />
IBM's Q System One quantum computer.
Misha Friedman/Getty Images<p>Almost every aspect of renewable energy technology is mature enough to replace traditional fossil fuels right now, save for one major stumbling block: battery technology. Fossil fuels function as a stable store by themselves, ready to undergo combustion to release the energy stored in gasoline or coal. But the pure electricity generated from solar energy or the turning of wind turbines needs to be stored somewhere, especially since the wind isn't always blowing and the sun isn't always shining.</p><p>Current batteries, however, are too expensive to implement at the scale needed to store the world's energy needs, and they don't <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/better-battery-renewable-energy-jason-pontin/" target="_blank">store energy long enough</a>. Like CO2-scrubbing catalysts, advances in battery technology are made through physical prototyping and testing. Using a quantum computer to simulate the complicated chemistry that hypothetically better batteries would employ would make this process many, many times faster.</p><p>This approach has attracted significant attention since batteries are such a widely used commodity. One notable example of first-movers in this arena is <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/better-battery-renewable-energy-jason-pontin/" target="_blank">Mercedes-Benz</a>, who has partnered with IBM's quantum computing program in order to build better batteries for electric cars.</p>
3. Modeling the Earth's climate<p>The Earth's climate is an enormously complicated system with numerous sensitive components that interact with one another. Our current understanding of climate change is the result of decades of modeling work from thousands of researchers, and thanks to that work, we know what components of the Earth's climate system pose the greatest risk, what we need to focus on, and when we need to act.</p><p>Understanding the climate informs our strategy and enables us to make better forecasts. At <a href="https://www.inverse.com/article/42244-sxsw-2018-quantum-computers-end-climate-change-debate" target="_blank">2018's SXSW conference</a>, tech entrepreneur William Hurley suggested that quantum computing's exponentially superior computing power could be used to model the many, many variables that go into the Earth's climate system.</p><p>There are many more known applications of quantum computing that could benefit us in our fight against climate change. Odds are, there's even more unknown applications that we'll only discover once we begin playing around with this new technology.</p><p>It's the ultimate technologist's dream — a quantum leap that suddenly renders seemingly insurmountable challenges negligible. It's important to remember, however, that we can't put all our eggs in one basket. We can't rest easy on the gamble that quantum computers will both mature quick enough and work effectively enough to solve every climate problem we've made for ourselves.</p><p>Addressing real-world challenges requires a mix innovation and adaptation. We need to develop better tools, faster computers, and more effective solutions as well as learn how to live with what has been allotted to us, to treat our environment more gently, and preserve the only planet we've got.</p>
An astrophysicist proposes new designs for stellar engines that can move a solar system.
- An astrophysicist proposes two new designs for stellar engines.
- The engines would be able to move our sun and whole solar systems.
- Moving the sun would be necessary to avoid collisions with supernovas and other space catastrophes.
How a Supernova Could Nuke Us<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="ftiLvL41" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="56a462ca76420f3c5f5369666950fc72"> <div id="botr_ftiLvL41_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ftiLvL41-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/ftiLvL41-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/ftiLvL41-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>A nearby star system may “go supernova".</p>
How to Move the Sun: Stellar Engines<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6fcbb1b3c1c323bd045aac634f4f75cb"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/v3y8AIEX_dU?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p> Check out the explanatory video from <em>Kurzgesagt</em> for more information.</p>
Princeton scientists find a new way to control nuclear fusion reactions.
- A new study from Princeton physicists successfully uses boron powder to control nuclear reactions in plasma.
- Creating plasma can lead to an unlimited supply of energy.
- The new method is cheaper and less dangerous than previous approaches.
Michio Kaku: Energies of the Future<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="BeOzZrrE" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f6bb4de494da08f079580afca1848370"> <div id="botr_BeOzZrrE_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BeOzZrrE-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/BeOzZrrE-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/BeOzZrrE-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> By 2030 the physicist expects that we will have hot fusion reactors.
PPPL physicist Robert Lunsford.
CREDIT: Elle Starkman / PPPL Office of Communications
Recent research estimates that the growth of emissions slowed down to 0.6 percent in 2019. However, this still means that humans released more CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019 than in any other year.
- A series of studies concluded that the growth in emissions have slowed to 0.6 percent in 2019.
- Despite this, 2019 was another record year, with 37 gigatons of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
- The U.S. and E.U. actually reduced their emissions in 2019, but this was offset by the growth in emissions from the developing world. The findings highlight the importance of developing renewable energy infrastructure in these countries.
Transitioning to renewables across the globe<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE5MTM5Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDI2ODE0MX0.sRUd9lTyl9ZLxW1h_FiHKP77bpIIhC0rhsJGrma_aig/img.jpg?width=980" id="aa293" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4518f851d4f216a884900dd8025da024" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Solar Panels" />
Solar panels are installed outside of Mumbai.
Pramod Thakur/Hindustan Times via Getty Images<p>Developing countries face a particular challenge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions — their people want a decent quality of life, and the easiest way to deliver the energy that quality of life requires is through fossil fuel usage, especially coal.</p><p>In developing countries, the infrastructure and technology necessary to support renewable energy isn't always in place. Developing and maintaining the kind of infrastructure necessary for renewable energy is far more demanding than it is for the infrastructure needed to exploit coal as an energy source. </p><p>When regions like the E.U. and U.S. were developing, however, renewable energy didn't exist. Thus, reducing emissions from developing countries is feasible, although it will likely require international support. In fact, despite their on-going development, both China and India are developing their <a href="https://unfccc.int/news/china-and-india-lead-global-renewable-energy-transition" target="_blank">renewable energy capacity</a> at an incredible pace — China is actually the <a href="http://geopoliticsofrenewables.org/report" target="_blank">world's largest</a> producer, exporter, and installer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles. These developments are good, but more effort is needed. In order to preserve ecological diversity and avoid civil unrest in the face of climate change, both developed and developing countries will need to realize greater reductions in their emissions and a more rapid transition to renewable energy.</p>