Academic Minute Podcast

Bob Brecha, University of Dayton – Electric Vehicles: Transporting the World Toward the Paris Agreement

Is there any good news on the climate?

Bob Brecha, professor of sustainability at the Hanley Sustainability Institute and Director of the Sustainability program at the University of Dayton, turns the key on one bright spot.

Dr. Robert Brecha (Bob) received his PhD in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin. He has been a faculty member at the University of Dayton (Ohio, USA) since 1993. Currently he is Professor of Sustainability in the Hanley Sustainability Institute and Director of the Sustainability Program, with a joint appointment in the graduate Renewable and Clean Energy Program. He has been affiliated with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany, and since 2018 with the climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics. For his work he has received support as an international Fulbright Fellow and through a European Union Marie Curie Fellowship. His recent research focuses on energy needs for sustainable development, working with developing countries on formulating strategies to meet Paris Agreement targets, integration of variable renewable energy into existing systems, and climate change mitigation strategies.

Electric Vehicles: Transporting the World Toward the Paris Agreement

This past summer gave us the hottest months ever recorded. Greenhouse gas emissions still have not begun to decrease, although that must be the starting point for keeping global temperatures below a 1.5°C increase as pledged in the Paris Agreement. Amid what seems to be a lot of bad news on the climate change front, there are bright spots to keep in mind, however.

A simple way to think about how to achieve the Paris Agreement goal is that we have to get to zero net CO2 emissions by mid-century. To do that, we have to electrify everything possible, and then make sure that all of that electricity is emissions-free. That brings us to some good news.

Sales of electric vehicles around the world have been skyrocketing, now making up 10% of global sales, and more than double that amount in the world’s largest market, China. That may not sound like much, but the rate of growth in sales indicates that the world is on a trajectory that is consistent with meeting the Paris Agreement – and one that has surprised even experts. Increases in solar electricity production are similarly exceeding most expectations.

There is an apparent lack of consistency between the rapidly occurring electrification of transportation and the continued planning for expansion by companies in the oil sector. With about 20 million fewer internal combustion engine vehicles sold last year compared to 2017, consumption of oil is bound to decrease quite rapidly over the next decade as this trend accelerates.

The International Energy Agency has said that demand for oil will peak in the next few years. The question is whether oil multinationals are going to adapt to the new reality of transportation by becoming integrated energy companies, or if they will double down on investments for infrastructure that will become stranded assets in a decarbonizing world.

Read More:
[The Conversation] – EV sales growth points to oil demand peaking by 2030 − so why is the oil industry doubling down on production

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