Tag: Economics

After Over 130 Years, King Coal Topped By Renewable Energy Resources In The US

by Nakul

Since the various Industrial Revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries, coal and other fossil fuels have dominated the global market due to their cheap prices, efficient production processes, and reliability. However, the gradual yet growing movement towards renewable energy sources has made a notable breakthrough this past year in the United States. 

Renewable energy sources, mainly solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower, have been growing in popularity and use over the past few decades. However, these sources have largely been out shadowed by the more established but harmful, non-renewable energy sources, namely coal. Nevertheless, in recent times, these renewable energy sources have made significant progress in the energy market – according to findings in the Monthly Energy Review published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) this past Thursday, in 2019, consumption of renewable energy resources surpassed coal consumption for the first time since 1885. Additionally, note that the various renewable energy resources we know today were not popularized until relatively recently; as the EIA explained, “Historically, wood was the main source of U.S. energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States”. Therefore, the more modern, popularized renewable energy resources of today display exciting projections for the future, due to their variability and more efficient manners of production in comparison to wood.

One drawback of this remarkable achievement is due to the broad scale of renewable energy, creating a possibly unfair head-to-head comparison between coal and renewable energy – as financial expert Maxx Chatsko stated, “Energy consumption from renewable energy topped coal last year, but only when all energy sources are counted. In other words, the math only works when electricity production, transportation, and consumption from industrial, residential, and commercial markets are combined.” 
Ultimately, despite the potential fallacies in comparison of the two energy industries, a glance at trends in coal consumption and renewable energy consumption reveal clear conclusions: according to the report by the EIA and analysis by hydrogeologist Scott K. Johnson, coal consumption dropped 15% from 2018 to 2019, while renewable energy consumption, namely in wind and solar energy, ticked up 1% within the same timeframe, a seemingly small yet nevertheless important sign of growth. To sum it up, as president of the Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook, pointed out, “It’s basic economics. Renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, and abundant. There is simply no way for coal to compete.”

How the Coronavirus is Taking on Climate Change

by Anshul Dash with Kunaal Venugopal

The coronavirus pandemic has engulfed our daily life. As the global cases mount and governments enforce lockdown procedures, the fear of the coronavirus have only grown. However, the effects of the mandated social distancing have an unforeseen benefit.

The rate of carbon dioxide emissions has started to slow down, and coronavirus is the key. Global manufacturing powerhouse China holds Wuhan, a small city that was home to the epicenter of China, and their national manufacturing shutdowns have actually halted the global market, slowing down economic growth.

So What?

There is a strong connection between economic activity and carbon dioxide emissions. The coronavirus pandemic has affected stock markets in the past few months, drastically reducing their performance to the point where it is comparable to its performance during the global financial crisis of 2008. As a matter of fact, an indicator of the economy’s holding, the S&P 500 Index is in pre-Trump administration standings– his 3 years of work was wiped out in only 1 month. The low economic activity signifies lower carbon dioxide emissions, thus mitigating climate change

The fall in economic activity is primarily because of the actions taken to mitigate the spread of the virus. Originating from Wuhan, China, the virus is now an issue in over 160 countries. In fact, over 50% of coronavirus cases are from outside of China. In order to slow down the spread of the virus, government officials have decided to put their countries on lockdown, meaning that all shops and restaurants are closed, and people have to stay inside their homes. 

With the devastation brought to the world by the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus, it’s difficult to look for positives. Although the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the world seems to fill this role, its effects are not what we assume. This mitigation will neither help reduce the rate of climate change nor result in a downward trend of emissions in the future, but may actually do the opposite. 

The coronavirus lockdown in China has led to approximately a 25% reduction in energy use over a two-week period. Reductions are also being observed in European countries such as Italy, where strict lockdown measures have been enforced due to the high percentage of the population diagnosed with COVID-19. 

However, these reductions in emissions may only be temporary. If the outbreak is contained, people will return to their work. Furthermore, they will have to make up for lost time, resulting in the same overall emissions, but in a shorter amount of time. The question is, can this temporary reduction mitigate climate change?

To answer this question, we have to look at past history. For example, in World War II, there were similar reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that followed the economic recession of the time. Nonetheless, the overall trend of emissions continued on an upward trend following the war, even with the temporary mitigation. Additionally, abruptly removing these emissions can have a negative impact, and could even accelerate climate change. Andrea Dutton, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that the pollution in the atmosphere “actually [has] a shielding effect” and “If you take that away, then it has the opposite effect.”

These signs predict a decrease in carbon dioxide emission levels in 2020, which will slow down the rate of climate change. With a lesser amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere, less heat will be absorbed, which will lead to decrease in global warming, for now.

How Australia’s Forest Fires Have Impacted the Country’s Tourism Industry

by Kaushal Kumar

Since June of last year Australia has been in its “brushfire season,” but this year the impact of the season has been record breaking. The fires have burned over 46 million acres killing 29 people and over a billion wild animals. Some endangered native animals are suspected to be extinct after these fires. This brushfire season has also been the most destructive season on record destroying about 600 buildings, 2300 of which were homes. While wildfires are nothing new to Australia, the season’s effects were worsened by the heat and an extended drought during the season. The combination of the lack of water and high heat lead to the perfect recipe for a catastrophic outcome.

These fires are not only having huge impacts on the land of the country, but also the economy as the wildfires are estimated to have generated $3.5 billion dollars in damage (Source). This includes destroyed housing, buildings, and government infrastructure, like roads and schools. However, these are not the only damages that the Australian economy is facing. The fires in the country have also cost the tourism industry an estimated 4.5 billion dollars due to cancellations.

According to Peter Shelley of the Australian Tourism Export Council, the problem isn’t that people are having to cancel their stay at a lodge or resort because of the risk of fires, but it is the fact that when people cancel their stay at said lodge, instead of choosing a different one, they cancel their entire vacation. Shelley also added that many people would cancel even if the areas that they were staying were not threatened by fire or smoke. The Australian Tourism Industry is calling on its government to help fund an advertising campaign to help bring people back into the country. Shelley told the Financial Review that, It’s a very sensitive time and has to be handled right, but we need to push the message that Australia is welcoming tourists.”

All of these economic problems caused by the fires circle back to one thing: Climate Change. As the effects of global warming continue to strengthen we may see more of these problems in our future, and these brushfires serve as a warning as what may be coming in the future. It is up to everyone, from all parts of the world to help solve this crisis, as it is only a matter of time before something worse takes place.

Image From: https://www.nature.com/collections/jchbhhagcb