By Anders Lorenzen
This past decade was one in which the world woke up to the climate crisis. But the new decade (which is just over a week old) will take us up to 2030. It will need to be the climate tackling decade if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Here we take a look at ten trends that could shape this future.
1: Plant-based eating
Towards the end of the past decade, meat and climate change were on everyone’s lips. The number of people who either stopped their meat intake or reduced it for ethical, climate and health reasons, exploded. New companies formed to innovate plant-based products, while top food brands and supermarkets rushed to enter the market for plant-based products. In 2020 this trend is not only set to continue to grow, but it will gain more relevance as research will continue to document the environmental and climate change problems of animal agriculture.
2: A hydrogen economy
Hydrogen has not had much publicity so far, but there are reasons to expect that the next ten years heralds an optimistic future for the industry. Hydrogen offers what no other technology offers as it can decarbonise all forms of transport (including aviation) as well as heating.
3: Carbon markets
Emissions trading schemes such as the EU’s ETS and, according to some experts, the more effective carbon tax scheme is using markets and taxes to control emissions. So far the EU’s scheme is still the biggest and longest, but when China launches its policy which is expected this year it will become the world’s largest. In 2019 Canada implemented their version of a carbon tax. Many economists argue that these schemes will have to cover the entire globe to be successful. This decade could see us closer towards realising that position if the US gets on board.
4: Carbon capture and storage and carbon removal
As the world gets closer to the 1.5 degrees C target, that governments have agreed we must avoid, it also appears that in reality, we can not phase out fossil fuels quickly enough to avoid the target. Therefore, we have to capture carbon from industrial activity, and also remove carbon already emitted. There are already several carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in operation using different technologies, though none are yet operating with 100% efficiency. Several companies have also created technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere. But as all these technologies are expensive, the finance and who should be responsible is critical. Legislation such as, for instance, making these technologies mandatory needs to happen before we will see any significant progress.
5: Electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
The electric car (EV) revolution is now unstoppable, and petrol and diesel cars are living on borrowed time. The big question is just how fast the transition will take. Presently only 0.5% of the cars on the world’s road are electric but expect that number to increase drastically in the coming decade.
Each year car manufacturers introduce more and more EV models and we could soon see the launching of more EV-only companies, such as Tesla and China’s Nio Inc. Additionally, governments across the world will get tougher with petrol and diesel car regulations. While still lagging some way behind the EV, hydrogen FUEL Cell vehicles will become more of a dominant force this decade.
6: Flying less
As more people and, in particular, young people worry about the climate crisis as they see more extreme weather events unfold before them, for example, the current bushfires in Australia. These kinds of events demonstrate the urgency of personal actions, such as, for example, flying less. Such a move could spread to become a global campaign resulting in more people holidaying at home, and businesses cutting back on business trips in favour of video conferencing as that technology improves.
It is also unavoidable that governments will hit the aviation industries with more taxes bringing air travel in line with other transport options. This could force the industry to become much greener.
7: Renewable technologies and battery technology
The traditional renewable energy technologies solar and wind will continue to become more dominant in the next ten years. Innovation in solar technology will improve and will be used as roof tiles and windows in new buildings. The efficiency rate will also continue to improve and we would see more floating solar farms established. Wind turbines will continue to be bigger and more powerful, and so fewer turbines will generate the same amount of electricity. The development of floating wind farms will enable the turbines to be erected further offshore.
Battery technology will continue to improve and will mean we can store excess renewable energy and use it for days when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. Electric cars, trucks, and buses will be able to drive further on a single charge, and charging will be faster.
8: Cultured meat
While plant-based eating has taken off in the western world, in Asia, as the continent gets richer, meat consumption is increasing. The reality is that some people just don’t want to give up meat. That’s where the production of cultured meat, produced from animal cells, grown in labs, without the huge carbon footprint of animal agriculture but tasting of meat is very important. While this has been going on for some years we have still to see the first product reaching consumers. Expect this to happen within this decade.
9: Planting trees
One of the positive trends to combat the climate crisis has been planting trees. Governments around the world have launched ambitious tree-planting projects. It is something the public can become directly involved with themselves, and it holds huge potential to capture carbon. Within the next decade expect many new areas to be dedicated to tree planting and the creation of new forests. And cities will also be growing more trees as an important climate adaptation strategy.
10: The decline of fossil fuels
It is inevitable as the world keeps adding more sources of clean energy, our electricity grids become cleaner, and the move to electrify everything speeds up, so will the decline of fossil fuels. It is almost certain that in this decade coal use in Europe (perhaps except for some eastern European states) and the US will be a thing of the past. Electric cars and the hydrogen revolution will also cause a serious dent in oil demand.