Careers in STEM
IssuesEnergy and climate
- Access to clean, affordable energy is lacking, even in industrialised countries. This needs to be improved to help reduce carbon emissions to tackle climate change, and well as helping to address poverty. As of 2017 only 17% of global energy consumption was renewable, and the energy efficiency improvement rate fell short of the 3% target at 1.7%. As of 2018, 789 million people lacked electricity globally. In sub-Saharan Africa, 53% of the population are affected by this electricity deficit .
- Coal – the most polluting fossil fuel – is still used in many developing countries, and some industrialised countries, and many more coal plants are planned around the world. Modern, cleaner, and more sustainable renewable energy is already available in many countries, which is an important part of them meeting long-term climate goals. However, the international flow of funds for a transition is not reaching the least developed countries proportionately.
- 2020 was the second warmest year on record, at the end of the warmest decade (2010-2019), and many climate disasters were documented across continents. As the global temperature rise passes 1.5C, the likelihood increases that we pass ‘tipping points’ – such as the irreversible melting of polar ice sheets or die back of tropical rain forests – after which rapid catastrophic climate change cannot be stopped. This is the decade when we need to rapidly reduce carbon emissions to limit the most dangerous impacts of climate change.
- We are off track to meet the Paris agreement target of limiting global heating to 1.5 °C. Many different aspects of life need to be improved to reach this target, and will require a great deal of scientific, and social innovation. It is imperative that we take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and although financing for this action has substantially increased, it is still less than the subsidies provided for fossil fuels.
- Measures for disarmament can reduce military expenditures and redirect public resources/spending towards social and environmental initiatives that can contribute to greater equality and sustainability.
- Some advocate expanding nuclear power to help tackle climate change, but that is controversial. Many materials created during the operation of a nuclear reactor are radioactive and as they decay, they emit radiation. The energy carried by this radiation is often sufficient to cause damage to biological cells and is therefore a health risk. Thus, radiation is the primary cause of both the waste and safety concerns related to nuclear energy. There are also strong links between the civilian and military nuclear industries.
 Data taken from United Nations ‘Transforming Our World - The 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development’
Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development | Department of Economic and Social Affairs (un.org)
21252030 Agenda for Sustainable Development web.pdf (un.org)