The results of a recent study, conducted by the Graham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, were published in a new report titled “Expect the Unexpected: The Disruptive Power of Low-carbon Technology”. This study set out to reassess the factors contributing to the progress of climate change and the success of efforts to limit these changes, considering the potential for solar photovoltaics and electric vehicles to displace fossil fuels while also integrating the impact of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) set in the Paris Climate Agreement.  The study proposes a new scenario which contrasts markedly with the ’business as usual’ (BAU) scenarios at the base of most major projections of the future of climate change, arguing that future strategies and scenarios must be based on up to date market data and the increasingly aggressive climate change mitigation measures instituted by governments.

The study found that current strategies and market projections consistently fail to acknowledge the accelerated development of solar photovoltaic, down 85% from 2008 to 2015 alone, and electric vehicle battery technology, a 73% reduction over the seven-year period, arguing that basing projections on outdated market predictions dramatically underestimates the potential for replacing fossil fuels as the primary source of energy production and vehicle fuel.

Furthermore, the report’s authors also contend that the practice of excluding any additional climate action policies or mitigation measures from these BAU scenarios critically hinders their capacity to accurately predict the future. While the success of government policies and mitigation measures cannot be taken for granted, the report suggests that these targets more accurately reflect the progress already underway in fighting climate change than a scenario in which no such activity is undertaken.

As a result of these updated parameters, the study finds that solar PV could supply 29% of global power generation by 2050 while EVs account for over two thirds of the transportation market. These developments would then contribute to the peaking of coal and oil demand by 2020 before falling steadily from 2030 to 2040. Finally, this scenario would limit global average temperature rise to between 2.4 and  2.7. degrees Celsius, as opposed to the 4 degrees projected by BAU scenarios while still falling shy of the 2 degree limit set out in the Paris Agreement.

Read the full report at the Carbon Tracker Initiative’s website and try out a tool developed for the study to see how the different factors influence progress 

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