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Climate

2024 Could Be a Very Bad Year for Emissions

On new CO2 level predictions, the Pentagon's solar panels, and Uber's EV push

2024 Could Be a Very Bad Year for Emissions
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Parts of Western Australia could see temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit • Floods are forcing some U.K. supermarkets to sell smaller vegetables • Americans are bracing for another arctic blast.

THE TOP FIVE

1. CO2 emissions could exceed 1.5 Celsius warming threshold this year

2024 is expected to be a record year for carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.K.’s Met Office. The emissions increase could push atmospheric CO2 levels beyond the threshold for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Driving the surge in emissions is the continued use of fossil fuels, plus the El Niño weather pattern. But even without El Niño, “human-induced emissions would still cause the CO2 rise in 2024 to be on the absolute limits of compliance with the 1.5°C pathways,” said the Met Office’s Richard Betts. Scientists say surpassing 1.5 degrees in warming could trigger tipping points and irreversibly alter the global climate system.

Forecast rise in CO2 concentration with (red) and without (green) El Niño influence.Met Office

2. IEA says global oil demand will grow more than expected

Global demand for oil will grow this year by about 1.2 million barrels per day, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast in its January Oil Market Report. That’s a slight increase on the 1.1 million BPD growth the IEA forecast last month, and the third consecutive upward revision. However it’s still much lower than 2023’s demand growth, as well as projections put out by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The IEA said rising popularity of electric vehicles, plus improvements in energy efficiency, is curbing oil usage overall, but economic growth across the world, combined with lower crude prices, is buoying demand in the short term. The agency predicts that oil demand will peak by 2030.

3. The Pentagon is going solar

The Department of Defense will install rooftop solar panels at the Pentagon, as well as a heat pump system for space heating and solar thermal panels for water heating. Alongside reducing fossil fuel usage, the upgrades could save the Pentagon $1.36 million per year. And the solar panels offer a more secure power source, just in the case there’s a grid outage or cyberattack, said Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of defense for energy. The Pentagon is one of 31 federal buildings getting grants from the Department of Energy to make their facilities more energy efficient.

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  • 4. Biden administration taps 22 million acres for potential solar development

    In more solar news: The Biden administration this week identified 22 million acres of federal land across 11 states it thinks could be used for solar development. The draft plan expands on an existing Obama-era policy, the Western Solar Plan, that originally pinpointed areas in six states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah – for their solar potential. The updated roadmap adds Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming to the mix, focuses specifically on areas within 10 miles of planned or existing transmission lines, and steers away from sensitive habitats, historic land, and old growth forests, Reutersreported. Of course not all of this land will be used for solar development, but the Bureau of Land Management wants to have “maximum flexibility” when working to meet President Biden’s goal of decarbonizing the U.S. power grid by 2035.

    5. Uber and Lyft drivers reportedly clogging EV charging stations

    A bunch of Uber and Lyft drivers who recently switched to Teslas are reportedly overwhelming electric vehicle charging stations in several major cities. This week’s severe cold snap prompted tales of dead Tesla batteries in frigid Chicago, but Inside EVsclaimed that the city’s “massive EV ridesharing fleet” exacerbated things by hogging charging stations: “Since most of these cars are rented out in an already-cold state and then often driven slowly and on very short trips, these cars never warm up sufficiently. Add in the fact that most Uber/Lyft drivers likely know next to nothing about EVs and preconditioning and you can begin to see why they contributed significantly to the charging issue in Chicago.”

    Similar reports are coming from New York City, which recently announced that its rideshare fleets must be electric by 2030. This triggered a run on Teslas by Uber drivers. Now customers staring down long lines at charging stations have taken to X to appeal to Elon Musk for help:

    X/Giorgi010

    “This is the kind of problem I like to see because it means that EV adoption is growing,” wrote Fred Lambert at Electrek, “but with that comes growing pains.”

    THE KICKER

    Researchers claim to have discovered a fast and energy-efficient way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using light-reactive molecules that could be activated by the sun.

    Yellow
    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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