Carbon’s Future in Black and White

Carbon’s Future in Black and White

There are reasons to be optimistic that the world will break its addiction to fossil fuels. But time is running out.

Nature, 2018

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Many climate scientists think the massive scale of worldwide fossil fuel use, combined with lackadaisical remedial efforts by governments, may swamp the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 to 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Others contend that precipitous drops in the prices of clean energy sources such as solar, lithium-ion batteries and wind could save Earth from a bleak future. As Nature contributor Jeff Tollefson explains, both sides of the issue could be right.


Clean, renewable fuels may save the world from global warming, but slow governmental responses might still doom the planet.

Most countries remain dependent on cheap fossil fuels for energy, even though prices for solar, wind and battery technologies are falling. Faced with economic challenges, many developing countries are likely to miss carbon emission targets recommended by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. Even small increases in infrastructure activity can spike carbon emissions.

Researchers are examining the correlation between increased use...

About the Author

Jeff Tollefson writes for Nature from New York City.

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