JASON BORDOFF: Well, I think it’s a really insightful and astute question. And I think, for the reasons Meghan talked about, the scale and magnitude of this challenge and how unprecedented it is, two things can both be true at the same time. When you look at where we are in clean energy, there is a lot to be excited about. 20 million E.V.s on the road, that figure is going to grow 35 percent this year. The cost of solar, of wind and batteries, has fallen 80 percent, 90 percent in the last decade. When you look at how much renewables we added in the last 20 years, we’re going to do that again in just the next five.
So, on almost every metric you look at, we are exceeding many of our wildest expectations. We’re breaking record after record for the pace of clean energy deployment, for the pace of clean energy cost declines. And as you said, other than a pandemic or a recession, oil use is going up every year, coal use is going up, gas use is going up, and emissions are going up. That’s what happens when you take a global economy as big as the one we are, when you have huge numbers of people around the world who use very little energy at all, when you grow populations, when you give people higher levels of prosperity.
As much as we talk about the phrase “energy transition,” the history of energy is not one of transition — it’s one of addition. And by that, I mean when we think of transitions, we think of going from wood to coal, or coal to oil, these great historic transitions that take decades to play out in the Industrial Revolution. That’s true as a percentage of the total. But what the planet cares about is not percentages of the total. The planet cares about how much fossil fuels we’re using and how much CO2 we’re emitting by burning them. That number has never gone down. We’re using more wood today than we did in the 19th century. That’s because the denominator keeps getting bigger. That’s what happens when the amount of energy the world is using goes up because of rising levels of income and rising populations around the world.
So if we want to have a clean energy transition that solves the climate crisis, we need to do something we’ve never done before, which is not just have a transition where we add a lot of clean energy and the percent of the total that is fossil fuels goes down. We need the total amount of hydrocarbons to start going down and the emissions associated with them to go down, or otherwise be captured or stored.
MEGHAN O’SULLIVAN: So just to reinforce the excellent point that Jason just made, last year, 2022, the world used more coal than it ever has before. And so even though we’re making these huge additions in renewable energy, that’s basically, simply, able to fuel the increase in energy demand that is happening globally. And it is, again, only in a recession or pandemic that energy use has gone down.