Empowering women. Improving education. Expanding access to technology. Reducing infant mortality. These goals have all been heralded as keys to sparking sustainable economic growth in the developing world and improving the lives of billions of global citizens. But a new study suggests that if the planet is to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, there might need to be an even bigger development priority: scaling up clean energy.
The study, published in the journal PLoS One this month, warns that, if economic growth continues to be fueled by coal, natural gas, and other carbon-rich energy sources, global warming could surge past the two-degree Celsius threshold by 2030—an outcome expected to inflict severe economic consequences on the developing world. The researchers also project that continued, intense reliance on fossil fuels would result in cost-prohibitive energy prices, driven both by diminishing reserves (read: lower supply) as well as Gross Domestic Product and population growth (read: higher demand).