Scientists’ recipe for a successful ecological transition in Davos

Usually Tim Lenton, Professor earth system science At the University of Exeter in England, he produces scientific publications that alert us to climate change points that our planet is passing through with increasing regularity. This time, the scientist began to demonstrate that this learning mechanism can have a positive effect on the ecological transition.

In a report prepared by the University of Exeter and the consulting firm Systemiq at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 19, Tim Lenton and his colleagues estimate that they have passed three turning points in the transition. It can reduce emissions from sectors that account for 70% of CO2 emissions. They include electric transport, fertilizers for agriculture and food products. Three major sources of emissions that still deserve significant decarbonization efforts.

“Each of these big levers increases the chance of mobilizing others and thus can lead to a cascade of positive tipping points to move us away from climate catastrophe,” emphasized Mark Meldrum of Systemiq, co-author of the report. The goal: to make these low-carbon solutions more competitive than polluters, so they grow exponentially.

Encourage electric vehicles

In order for the leakage mechanism to work, a precise decision in a certain sector is necessary, which allows to create an increase in the production of these products that are useful for the transition and thus reduce their cost. And the good news is that the system is already working, according to the report’s authors. They explain that the first tipping point in the electricity sector has already passed, and the second tipping point in road transport is just around the corner. They note that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 97% over the past three decades, and is likely to continue to fall as growing demand for electric vehicles leads to larger-scale production. Thus, today there are 150 giga-factories in the world, then only one five years ago.

“This is one of the turning points identified by our most advanced scientists,” we read. The authors believe that by promoting an acceleration in this area (through the purchase of zero-emission cars or a rapid increase in the construction of charging infrastructure), progress in the battery-coupled renewable electricity sector will also be irreversible. And we are now very close to reaching that tipping point, especially with regulations to end the sale of thermal vehicles in 2030 in Europe as well as in the UK and 2035 in China. This should quickly lower energy storage costs, thus favoring the wind and solar power generation sectors.

Use green ammonia to boost hydrogen

Another sector close to a positive turning point is the use of green ammonia for agriculture. This substance is widely used in the creation of fertilizers, but must be produced through electrolysis and is therefore still very strongly linked to fossil fuel sources. The use of electricity produced by renewable energy sources will not only produce green ammonia, but also reduce the cost of electrolyzers, which will immediately benefit the development of hydrogen. At the end of the chain, this should allow hydrogen to be used more widely for maritime transport or steelmaking instead of gas.

According to this paper, implementing a 25% green ammonia mix agreement in fertilizer production could generate demand for about 100 GigaWatts of hydrogen electrolyzers, which would reduce investment costs by about 70% compared to current prices. .

Increase the share of vegetable proteins in the diet

A final idea is to develop a more voluntary track of alternative proteins to replace animal proteins, especially by using plant proteins that are quite similar in cost, taste and structure. The authors thus emphasize that public procurement through the purchase of plant-based proteins by public administration, hospitals and schools can be an important lever for change.

Thus, the use of vegetable proteins will have several effects: it will allow to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with livestock farming, but also to free up agricultural land. According to this report, if we used 20% plant protein in our diet, it would free up 400-800 million hectares of land currently used for livestock, or 7-15% of global agricultural land. These areas can thus be set aside for reforestation, thus recovering carbon emissions and contributing to the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“If we want to limit the risk of damaging climate change tipping points, we need to find and activate positive socio-economic tipping points,” said Tim Lenton. watchman. In a study published in September in the journal Scienceresearchers have already identified sixteen climate tipping points that could trigger a global or regional exodus, and predict that five of them could be reached soon, such as the melting of permafrost or the disappearance of coral reefs.

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