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Why Burn When the World Is Suffocating?

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The world is able to reduce large amounts of carbon emissions from the atmosphere simply by switching to green energy. Yet the non-renewable industry has contributed trillions in US dollars to the global economy. Could renewable energy beat fossil fuels on economic sustainability?

Let’s explore why we are dependent on fossil fuels, why environmental sustainability matters for poor economies, and why fossil fuels are a health hazard that could be detrimental to our productivity.

“The technologies required to reach net zero exist today – the challenge is to use them at pace and scale, and I remain optimistic that we can make this happen.” - Bernard Looney, CEO of Bp

At the Heart of Our Global Economy

Fossil fuels have shaped our global economy to what it is today, dominating the global landscape as a trillion dollar industry. Its allure for entrepreneurs and global leaders alike have contributed to trillions of dollars in subsidies, created millions of jobs and businesses [1].

Fossil fuels are denser than other sources of energy and ideal for transport, which arguably are its biggest advantages. For example, gasoline is one billion times more energy dense compared to wind and hydropower[2].

Moreover, the fossil fuel industry has had a longer and more profitable supply chain so far compared to the solar energy industry [3]. Kickstarting the industrial revolution and pulling people out of poverty over the past century, the industry is at the heart of our global economy.

Natural gas trade flows worldwide in billion cubic meters from BP Statistical Review of World Energy Report 2020

Source: Bp [7]


Our Sustainable Future

Continuous use of non-renewable energies can also become detrimental to our health. For example, Fossil fuels also contribute to pollution, which kills seven million people annually and mostly in emerging markets [4]. Such consequences could potentially inhibit economic growth and trap people into poverty[5].

Two thirds of carbon emissions are attributed by energy production [4]. Fossil fuels make up 81% of our energy source globally, and have had a similar share of the global energy makeup for many decades.

However, fossil fuels are finite and environmentally unsustainable. Even without the consequence of climate change, fossil fuels are a finite source of energy which means it is going to run out [6].

In contrast, renewable energy is created from “naturally occurring phenomena”, therefore it will help preserve the environment, and sustain livelihoods [7].

Most environmental goods and services are unquantifiable in price through not passing formal markets. For example, clean air is a public good, along with fuel wood, fruits and meat from wildlife species. In poor economies, many are dependent on public goods and services. However, their benefits are difficult to quantify and often go unrecorded and do not contribute to statistics, therefore ignored by economic policy planners [7].

Here are the top 10 countries based on the Energy Transition Index 2020
Conversion to renewable energy is a global effort.

Source: World Economic Forum [4].


In the end, we must remember that non renewable energy such as the fossil fuel industry has greatly shaped our modern day economy. Nevertheless, it is evident that it does not belong to the future we are collectively building, that is a sustainable world.






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