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A new study has found a mere 5% of the world’s power plants are responsible for 73% of emissions released from energy generation. A group of researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder analyzed 2018 data from 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in 221 countries and found the world’s top emitters: six of these plants are in China and East Asia, two are in Europe, and two are in India. The world’s “super-emitters” are all coal-powered, tend to be in the global north, and run inefficiently for the amount of energy they generate.
Why This Matters: Electricity generation is the largest contributor to the world’s greenhouse emissions, but this study shows that immediately addressing the most egregious power plants could have an outsize impact on reducing emissions. In the United States we also know where our problem lie. The list of the biggest overall emitters is dominated by some of the biggest U.S. power companies, including North Carolina-based Duke Energy, Atlanta’s Southern Co., and American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio.
If the highest emitting power plants were made more efficient, added new carbon captures, or changed fuels, the researchers calculate that emissions from the world’s electricity production could drop between 17% and 49%.
Sparking Action: The researchers hope this study will inspire activists and policymakers to go after their countries’ “super-emitters.”
“It could be used by climate activists to organize more protests aimed at particular plants and their parent companies,” Don Grant, sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the paper, told Fast Company. “It could be used as part of a legal strategy that seeks to hold particular plants liable for the disproportionate pollution they create. Replacing or retrofitting super polluting power plants could be the centerpiece of major infrastructure projects. For countries that are not yet ready or willing to shift to renewables, these data provide some alternative mitigation strategies.”
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor In May, President Biden ordered government agencies to evaluate and develop a plan to mitigate the risk that climate change presents to the US economy. Last week, the administration released a first-of-its-kind roadmap to building a climate-resilient economy. The 40-page report was announced Friday and lays out concrete government-wide […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer As the earth’s temperature skyrockets, so will the demand to beat the heat with air conditioning. While access to cooler air is yet another example of climate inequity, a new study published in Nature found that people in lower-income countries may also have to pay much more than those […]
According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change, 85% of the global population is feeling the impacts of human-induced climate change. Meanwhile, the world’s most emitting nations are also some of its wealthiest but have lagged on taking decisive climate action as developing countries bear the brunt of climate fallout. If high emitters don’t step up to lead the charge […]
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