The Earth’s climate is changing. 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming trends are clear and “extremely likely” due to human activities, most prominently the rising emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the burning of fossil fuels. CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas that blocks heat from escaping into the atmosphere, and the dramatic increase in our use of carbonaceous fossil fuels like coal and oil since the 19th century has increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 from 280 to over 400 parts per million (ppm) – enough to impact the climate of the entire planet.
If that scientific consensus isn’t convincing enough, we’re seeing the dangerous impacts of climate change more clearly every year with our own eyes. Hurricanes are becoming stronger, wetter, and produce greater storm surges than in the past due to warmer ocean waters, warmer air, and rising sea levels. Here in California, we’ve seen repeated seasons of deadly wildfires worsened by climate change due to factors including higher temperatures (and drier vegetation) as well as a shorter rainy season.
Getting to Net Zero With Renewables and Efficiency
To preserve our planet for future generations, we need to dramatically and rapidly reduce CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. The good news is, it’s possible: according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we can still limit global warming to 1.5°C or less compared to pre-industrial levels – and avoid potentially catastrophic impacts on human and environmental systems – if we can reach net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.
The IPCC report identifies a variety of technology scenarios that could achieve this goal, but all have in common two fundamental climate solutions: the replacement of fossil fuels through the deployment of zero-carbon renewable energy sources and the reduction of energy waste through improvements in efficiency.
A wide variety of zero-carbon renewable energy sources including solar (our favorite!) as well as wind, hydropower, and bioenergy can replace coal, gas, and oil for power generation. They can also replace fossil energy for heating and transportation when these end uses are electrified – for example, through heat pumps for home heating instead of a natural gas-fired boiler, or electric vehicles instead of gasoline-fueled cars.
According to the IPCC, limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires renewables to supply 49–67% of total energy needs, and 36-97% of electricity specifically. Among the “middle range” of scenarios presented by the IPCC, renewables account for 70-85% of electricity by 2050. Based on the most recent renewables data from REN21, renewables currently provide about 18% of global energy and 25% of global electricity needs – which means we need to approximately triple their share of each over the next three decades.
Tripling the share of renewables in our energy supply is a tall order, but energy efficiency can make achieving that goal a lot easier. By reducing the amount of energy we waste in all sectors – including in our homes and other buildings, as well as in industry and transportation – we can dramatically reduce the total amount of energy we need as well as the amount of fossil fuels we have to burn. As noted by the IPCC, steps to improve energy efficiency are “central in keeping 1.5°C within reach” and “critical enabling factors” for minimizing the costs of these climate scenarios.
The International Energy Agency has done further work in examining the huge role energy efficiency can play in solving our global energy and climate challenge. Its “Efficient World Scenario” looks to a 2040 energy system in which all cost-effective energy efficiency improvements (based on current technologies) are made, enabling a world that supports 20% more people, 60% more building space, and doubled GDP for only a marginal increase in energy demand. According to the IEA, these actions could deliver 40% of the emissions improvements required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Innovative Financing for Climate Solutions
Financing innovations will have a huge role to play in accelerating the deployment of these climate solutions. According to the IPCC, “Investments in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency would need to approximately double in the next 20 years” to put the world on course for 1.5°C. Similarly, the IEA says “it will be vital to unlock new sources of finance, building on recent innovations” to improve the energy performance of new as well as existing buildings.
Enabling everyday people to prosper from climate solutions has been a core part of Mosaic’s mission from day one. We’re already a leader in home solar loan financing, and now we’re connecting homeowners to fast, simple loan financing for roofing, windows, HVAC, and other home improvements that are essential to improving energy efficiency.
If you’re a contractor, click here to learn more about how Mosaic can help you grow your business – and build a better climate future – with simple, affordable financing for solar energy and energy efficient home improvements.