Jenny Howell - Down to Earth

DOWN TO EARTH: Into the future on climate change

With the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, I wanted to dig a bit more

We have lengthening days and finally some sunshine, a peaceful transfer of power did actually go ahead with our neighbours to the south and there are COVID-19 vaccine dates to look towards to on the horizon.

My last article ended with some hopeful news about the renewable energy direction in the U.K., so with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, I wanted to dig a bit more into finding out where renewables are at globally.

According to the Independent Evaluation Group, renewables will have made up close to 30 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2020 (with coal and gas still making up 60 per cent of the world’s supply).

If you also include transport and heating, then renewables make up about 11-13 per cent of the world’s total energy sources. So we have a way to go still, but the good news is that the renewables are increasing and as they do they are primarily replacing carbon intensive fossil fuels.

Interestingly, half of the increase in solar capacity is from individuals and small businesses installing solar photo-voltaic panels, which reinforces that individual actions are actually making a difference. Gavin Lake camp will be able to show off their own panels this spring, (thanks to a private donation and a CRD grant), so I look forward to reporting first hand on how much electricity they are producing.

READ MORE: Snow science at Gavin Lake

Here in Canada, we are above the global average, getting 16.3 per cent of all energy from renewables and contributing three per cent of the world’s total renewable sources. About 67 per cent of that energy comes from water, followed by wood waste (28 per cent) and then wind (five per cent); with wind, solar and biomass all expanding rapidly. Canada contributes nine per cent of the total world supply of hydroelectricity, two per cent of the world’s wind energy and one per cent of solar.

So it seems the world has firmly started the journey towards renewables. The key question is whether enough energy could be produced this way to replace the oil, coal and gas we have all been so dependent on for so long. A 2019 study from LUT, a Finnish University and EnergyWatch, a German non-profit has produced a road map towards such a future, saying not only is it doable, but it will be more energy efficient, cheaper and provide around 35 million jobs (there are currently about 20 million jobs in energy industries), with large numbers in the solar voltaic industry. Ultimately, wind and solar would provide about 88 per cent of the world’s energy. Decarbonization of the power and heat industry is possible by 2030, with the transport sector following from 2030 to 2050.

The report is dedicated to Greta Thunberg. She has pointedly laid the blame for a lack of climate action on politicians.

Now with a road map in hand and facing continued public pressure, there is a clear way forward that would give teenagers a future they could be optimistic about.

Have a look at the following:

Waste Wise tip: Turn off the lights when you leave a room.

For more information on Water Wise or Waste Wise and any of our school and community programs, contact the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society at or visit the website at

Jenny Howell is a Water Wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

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