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The use of energy is deemed sustainable if it serves current demands without jeopardizing future generations’ needs. Environmental concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions, as well as social and economic issues such as energy poverty, are frequently included in definitions of sustainable energy. Wind, hydroelectric power, solar, and geothermal energy are all examples of renewable energy sources that are significantly more sustainable than fossil fuels. However, certain renewable energy initiatives, such as forest clearance for biofuels, can have serious environmental consequences. Nonrenewable energy sources have a contentious role to play. Nuclear power is a low-carbon source with a safety record that rivals wind and solar, but its long-term viability has been questioned due to fears of nuclear proliferation, radioactive waste, and accidents. While converting from coal to natural gas is better for the environment, it may cause a delay in transitioning to more sustainable choices. Carbon capture and storage technology can be integrated into power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but it is costly and seldom used.
Over 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change are attributed to the global energy system, which is 85% reliant on fossil fuels. Over 750 million people do not have access to electricity, and over 2.6 billion cook using harmful fuels like wood or charcoal. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions to levels commensurate with the Paris Agreement will necessitate a system-wide revolution of energy production, distribution, storage, and consumption. Because the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass contributes significantly to air pollution, which is projected to cause 7 million deaths each year, the transition to a low-carbon energy system would have significant health advantages. There are methods to give universal access to electricity and clean cooking technology while still meeting climate targets and benefiting developing nations’ health and economies.
Climate change mitigation scenarios depict routes in which the globe rapidly transitions to low-emission electricity generation, relying less on burning fossil fuels and more on electricity. Many scenarios predict a rising role for hydrogen fuel supplied from low-emission energy sources in some energy-intensive technologies and processes that are difficult to electrify. Electrical networks require flexibility through technology such as energy storage to support growing proportions of fluctuating renewable energy. To achieve significant reductions in emissions, energy-consuming infrastructure and technology, such as buildings and transportation systems, would need to be upgraded to employ clean energy sources while simultaneously conserving energy. Some essential technologies for reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are still in the early stages of development.
In 2019, wind and solar energy sources provided 8.5 percent of global power, a figure that has risen significantly as prices have decreased and are expected to continue to decrease. To keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the IPCC predicts that 2.5 percent of global GDP must be spent in the energy system each year between 2016 and 2035. Government initiatives that support energy system transformation that are well-designed can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance air quality while also increasing energy security in many circumstances. Carbon pricing, renewable portfolio requirements, phase-outs of fossil fuel subsidies, infrastructure development to enable electrification and sustainable transportation, and supporting research, development, and demonstration of innovative clean energy technologies are all examples of policy initiatives.