The fossil fuel industry is dying and COVID-19 is expediting the demise of this climate-destroying monster. This comes after years of volatility and poor returns which had already forced many investors to concede that the industry is approaching the end of its life cycle. We know that phasing out fossil fuels could go a long way towards arresting climate change and the current market realities are inviting us to do so. According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, we have a 64 percent chance of staying below 1.5 C above preindustrial levels if we stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure (power plants, factories, vehicles, ships, and planes) and replace them with zero-carbon alternatives when they reach the end of their lives. The longer we wait the more it will cost and the less likely we are to get there. If we wait until 2030 our chances of staying within the upper threshold limits fall by half.
“We are rapidly approaching the end of the age of fossil fuels. This study confirms that all new energy infrastructure must be sustainable from now on if we are to avoid locking in commitments to emissions that would lead to the world exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement,” said Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics.
We may have moved past peak oil but we still have a long way to go. Although fossil fuels are the leading source of climate change-causing emissions the world still gets 80 percent of its energy from oil, gas, and coal. The first step towards weaning ourselves off of hydrocarbons involves ending fossil fuel subsidies. It is only reasonable that big polluters must begin to pay for the pollution they produce. Continuing to build out dirty energy infrastructure is madness and bailing out oil companies makes no sense. The smartest and cheapest place to store oil is in the ground.
The fossil fuel industry will fight to the bitter end. They will call on their political minions to continue doing their bidding and protecting their interests. Those who reside in the world’s most powerful nation may hold the future of the planet in their hands. If Americans can find their way through the maze of disinformation they will realize that the future of life on this planet is in the balance and they cannot afford to reelect the current administration.
Will Americans support parties and presidents that are beholden to fossil fuel interests? If truth prevails they will turn their backs on the manipulative politics of hate and division and demand a government that supports policies that are in the national interest and serve the public good.
The speed at which governments were able to institute a response to the coronavirus suggests that with sufficient political will we could also address the climate crisis. The sickness and tragic loss of life associated with COVID-19 forces us to reflect on our perilous trajectory. Although there is little reason to expect a quick recovery. Forbes predicts that we will go right back to where we were. However, others predict that there is no normal to return to. If we do return back to our pre-coronavirus path, we will have missed a golden opportunity to save ourselves from ourselves and the suffering and death will have been in vain.