New Zealand’s New Prime Minister is Promising a Zero-Carbon Nation by 2050

Going Zero-Carbon

New Zealand’s new Prime Minister elect, Jacina Ardern, is not wasting time to commit to fighting climate change. With the help of her coalition government, Ardern has set a target for New Zealand to become a zero-carbon nation by the year 2050. This includes promises to reduce overall carbon emissions and to offset what remains with international carbon credits and tree planting.

“I believe that this will be a government of change,” Ardern said Friday at a press conference after her first caucus meeting. “We have found allies in this parliament who wish to join with us in building a fairer New Zealand. A country where our environment is protected.”

Image credit: Pixabay/Creative Commons
Image credit: Pixabay/Creative Commons

Battling climate change is a topic of great importance to the people of New Zealand, one that crosses party lines. The move is part of a potential surge in the number of countries moving toward carbon neutrality.

Turning the Tide

Other nations have recently made similar pledges. Sweden passed a law early this summer to become carbon neutral by 2045. Not to be outdone, Norway has pledged carbon neutrality by 2030. Other nations, like the North American countries, have made promises to significantly curb carbon emissions within the next few decades, but stop short of pledging carbon neutrality.

Can We Come Back from Climate Change’s Brink?
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Scotland has pledged to become independent from fossil fuels as an energy source by 2020. Granted, this is a different pledge than making the entire country carbon neutral, but it will offset a great deal of carbon emissions for the country.

New data published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) shows some promise that the fight against climate change is working. The evidence indicates that CO2 emissions remained static in 2016.

Of course, this is not a signal that we should hoist a victory banner. On the contrary, it is proof that we can still make a difference — and should continue to do so. National pledges to become zero-carbon are great first steps, yet we must hold our leaders accountable to make good on those promises.

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AI Might Match Human Learning Capabilities by 2050, Says Breyer Capital CEO

AI circa 2050

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on track to develop the same learning capabilities as humans, with some believing AI will be able to learn at the same speed as us in a little over 30 years.

Jim Breyer, founder and CEO of venture capitalist firm Breyer Capital, shares this belief. Speaking at the CNBC and Institutional Investor’s Delivering Alpha conference earlier this month, the CEO said it could happen as early as the year 2050, citing his various talks with AI experts.

White House AI Report: Everything You Need to Know [INFOGRAPHIC]
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“When I visit campuses and speak to the AI experts, there is a median year of 2050 where they think the self-learning capability of AI will be singular and will be at human-level intelligence,” he explained. “So, 2050? Does it happen? There are a lot of people who don’t think that is the case. It is median data from some of the best AI researchers in the world.”

Hopes and Concerns

A lot of people in the tech industry have spoken about AI and its potential — for better and worse. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called AI the biggest threat to civilization, while Stephen Hawking has said it could negatively impact middle-class jobs and potentially lead to the end of humanity, resulting in the development of a plan to stop the “AI apocalypse.”

On the other hand, a number of researchers have disagreed with Musk’s views, saying his thoughts “seem to focus on the rather far-fetched super-intelligence take-over scenarios.” There’s also the belief that AI will only be dangerous if it’s used without proper thought and concern for the consequences.

Breyer has invested a lot of personal time and money into AI and human assisted intelligence (HAI), but hasn’t dismissed Musk’s concerns in the way others have. Instead, he remains focused on the good that may come from AI’s incorporation — the technology is used in self-driving cars, and is expected to help defend against cyber attacks.

“For the next decade or two, the good that comes out of proper, safe and interesting AI applications is enormous, and I am very excited about being part of investing in it.”

Regardless of where AI goes, the technology is here to stay. We’ll have to wait and see where AI takes us, but at the rate it’s being developed, it won’t be much longer to see how it impacts our lives.

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A New Roadmap to Renewable Dependence Could Eliminate 99% of CO2 Emissions by 2050

Far-Reaching and Inclusive

Setting goals to reduce carbon emissions and then figuring out a way to achieve those goals is difficult for any country. Now, imagine doing that for not just one nation but 139 of them.

That’s the enormous task a team of researchers led by Stanford University environmental engineer Mark Jacobson decided to take on. He and his colleagues built a roadmap for 139 countries across the globe that would lead to them relying solely on renewable energy by 2050, and they’ve published that plan today in Joule.

renewable energy solar energy wind energy water energy
Image Credit: The Solutions Project

The 139 countries weren’t picked arbitrarily. The researchers chose them because data on each was publicly available through the International Energy Agency. Combined, the chosen nations also produce more than 99 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

To develop their roadmap, the researchers first analyzed each country. They looked at how much raw renewable energy resources each one has, and then they determined the number of wind, water, and solar energy generators needed for that country to reach 80 percent renewable energy dependence by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

The researchers also calculated the amount of land and rooftop area such power sources would require, as well as how a transition to renewables could reduce each nation’s energy demand and costs. Aside from the energy sector, the team also took into account the transportation, heating/cooling, industrial, and agriculture/fishing/forestry industries of each of the 139 countries while creating their roadmap.

“Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the Earth’s atmosphere, transitioning eliminates 4-7 million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term, full-time jobs by these plans,” Jacobson said in a press release.

“What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits, and cost benefits,” he added.

Benefits Beyond the Climate

As each of these 139 countries is unique, their paths to 100 percent renewable energy are necessarily unique as well. For instance, nations with greater land-to-population ratios, such as the U.S., the E.U., and China, have an easier path to renewable dependence and could achieve it at a faster rate than small but highly populated countries surrounded by oceans, such as Singapore.

For all countries, however, the goal is the same: 100 percent dependence on renewables.

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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According to the study, this transition would lessen worldwide energy consumption as renewables are more efficient than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts.

It would also result in the creation of 24 million long-term jobs, reduce the number of air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million annually, and stabilize energy prices. The world could potentially save more than $ 20 trillion in health and climate costs each year.

And these 139 nations now know exactly what they need to do to reach this goal and all the benefits that come with it.

“Both individuals and governments can lead this change. Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” Jacobson explained. “There are other scenarios. We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”

For co-author Mark Delucchi from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the study sends a very clear message: “Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible, by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can.”

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Another U.S. City Has Pledged to Transition Completely to Renewables by 2050

Taking up the Cause

The fight against climate change continues, and the city of Orlando has now pledged their support to the cause. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to push for a resolution that puts Orlando on track to run solely on renewable energy by 2050. Orlando joins 39 other cities — including San Diego, Atlanta, and Chicago — in adopting a 100 percent renewable energy goal.

Paris Climate Agreement
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The decision comes after the U.S. federal government opted to withdraw from the historic Paris Climate Agreement, which set carbon emission reduction goals to help stop human-made climate change. In the face of this lack of federal support, politicians on the local and state level have taken up the fight for a cleaner environment.

“This administration has decided not to honor our commitment to the Paris climate accord, but a lot of mayors around the country have picked up the reins to say if we’re not doing it at the federal level, it’s incumbent that we lead at the local level,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer after the resolution passed.

A Worldwide Appeal

In addition to the environmental implications of transitioning to renewables, the government of Orlando also recognized the economic benefitsSolar, in particular, has become very inexpensive.

“The power from the Sun is cheaper to produce electricity than the power from fossil fuels, including coal and even natural gas,” said Chris Castro, Orlando’s director of sustainability, following the vote. “What we want to do is maintain the affordability of our electricity rates. A lot of people think that just by going solar, it’s going to be more expensive, and that is not the case.”

The city is also keen on the job opportunities produced by renewable energy. Castro said that solar energy added 1,700 new jobs in Florida in 2016, growing 10 times faster than the state’s overall economy. Indeed, in the U.S. as a whole, renewables are providing more jobs than their fossil fuel counterparts and adding new jobs at a rate 17 times that of the overall economy.

Cities aren’t the only entities committing to clean energy targets. Various states have made their own pledges, with fourteen of those forming an alliance to keep the U.S. on track with the Paris climate accord’s targets. Nations beyond the U.S., including Scotland, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and 47 others, have all set their own targets of 100 percent renewable energy generation between 2030 and 2050. These pledges are very welcome as our planet needs all the allies it can get in the fight for a cleaner environment.

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A New UN Report Projects Worldwide Populations to Approach 9.7 Billion by 2050

Rapid and numerous advances in medical science are keeping us alive longer and helping us deliver the next generation of healthy babies. A new report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs projects that the world’s population is going to continue to boom, with the worldwide population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. The projection also indicates the population will top 8.5 billion by 2030.

Fertility rates are down in almost every region of the world, yet the ever increasing life expectancy is still allowing population growth continue to increase — albeit with an increasingly older populace.

That being said, many of the resources our survival here on Earth depends on are finite. Conversations on how to sustain those resources with some semblance of equity are paramount to our ability to accommodate such a big population increase.

In 2013, famed British naturalist David Attenborough scathingly expressed his feelings on the population boom, telling The Radio Times that humans are a plague. Adding the warning that “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us.” He cites climate change as one such factor that will limit humanity’s time on Earth if trends are not changed.

Other experts have echoed these thoughts in different terms: Stephen Hawking has even gone so far as to say that humanity only has 100 years left on the planet.

Regardless if the situation is as dire as Attenborough and Hawking believe, increasing Earth’s population while refusing to focus on better sustainability practices is a recipe for catastrophic global disaster.

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