Science news this week features advances towards the future of renewable energy as well as a surprising new discovery. Ireland carries on the Massachusetts renewable energy message from last week by passing a legislation to cut fossil fuels. Additionally, falling renewable energy costs are reported to halt fossil fuel growth by 2020. In a plot to find Atlantis, scientists have evidence of a new continent that is now submerged deep under water. Positives all around for science this week, let’s dive in.
Ireland aims to be first country to completely cut out fossil fuels.
Did St. Patrick’s Day come early this year?
With a large majority vote (90 to 53), Ireland passed a bill requiring the country to halt all fossil fuel investments. This would mean that the nation would divest its investments from the £8 billion ($9,988,800,000), according to the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. If this bill were to pass into law, Ireland would become the first nation to entirely defund its fossil fuel industry. Trocaire Executive Director Eamonn Meehan put it best in his statement “this move by elected representatives will send out a powerful message. The Irish political system is now finally acknowledging what the overwhelming majority of people already know: to have a fighting chance to combat catastrophic climate change we must phase out fossil fuels and stop the growth of the industry that is driving this crisis.” This sounds like a similar legislation from Massachusetts that we talked about last week.
Scientists find evidence of a microcontinent between India and Madagascar.
Atlantis. Real. Yep, Called it.
Unfortunately, this is not the mythical Atlantis that we hoped for–but this is nearly as interesting. Scientists have found evidence of a long-lost continent found submerged deep under the Indian Ocean. This microcontinent, a quarter of the size of Madagascar, may have come into existence due to chunks of land that had sunk and become attached to the ocean crust below. Mauritia, scientists call it, was located between India and Madagascar. Over time, continents started breaking apart causing Mauritia to stretch and break up and eventually submerge deep under the Indian Ocean around 85 million years ago.
What evidence? How did scientists come to this conclusion?
In 2013, this volcanic island became evident as scientists from the University of the Witwatersrand, in South Africa, discovered a more powerful gravitational pull than other regions around the Indian Ocean. Now they were able to analyze 3 billion year-old zircon crystals found in the Miocene oceanic hotspot. This analysis could possibly lead to a reconstruction of the history regarding our continents. As the discovery of other old continents continues, Alan Collins at the University of Adelaide in Australia say, “It’s only now as we explore more of the deep oceans that we’re finding all these bits of ancient continents around the place.” To date, we have only explored less than 5% of the ocean, it is only a matter of time until we discover something truly amazing underwater.
Falling green energy costs may halt fossil fuel growth.
A rise in technology, a fall in cost.
A report released on February 2nd from the Imperial College London and the UK think-tank Carbon Tracker Intitiative, demonstrated that a cost reduction in electric vehicles as well as solar technology could halt growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020. The report claims that the growth in electric vehicles alone could result in two million barrels of oil per day to be replaced by 2025–which is the same volume which caused the oil price collapse in 2014-15. At this rate, we’ll see a displacement of 16 million barrels per day by 2040 and 25 million barrels per day by 2050. Solar power is also making progress as prices are reported to have fallen by around 85 percent. Carbon Tracker and the Imperial College London argue that this will lead to solar power supplying around 23 percent of global power generation in 2040 and 29 percent by 2050, phasing out coal and leaving natural gas with as little as 1 percent of the market share, some serious progress towards renewable energy.
This sounds great, tell me more about the future.
Luke Sussams, Senior Researcher at Carbon Tracker, told The Guardian that “Electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates. Further innovation could make could make our scenarios look conservative in five years’ time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more.” Sussams is referring specifically to ExxonMobil’s claim that all renewables will only supply 11 percent of global power generation by 2040. In opposition, Sussams and fellow researchers conclude that we are expected to see coal and oil demand to peak in 2020 and gas demand weakens.