How do we fight climate change while global energy demand soars?
World leaders and the global press have rightly focused these past weeks on the imperative to fight rising world temperatures and climate change’s impacts on people around the world. Yet, there is another pressing global need the world has to address simultaneously: a rapidly rising demand for energy, especially fossil fuels.
Nowhere exemplifies this contradiction more than the Caspian region. The tragedy of the Aral Sea was an early example of the disastrous consequences of environmental exploitation, losing 90 percent of its water volume, but this is far from the only example. At the same time, Central Asia will require over $30 billion of annual investment into energy infrastructure to meet its growing demand throughout the 2020s, and every country in the South Caucasus consumes more energy now than it did 20 years ago.
Climate disasters will not prevent growing energy consumption either in the Caspian region or the rest of the world. Access to energy is essential for survival, commerce and security. The UN’s Sustainable Energy Goals call for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, just as they do for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Energy security remains a core factor in countries’ national security calculations as well as in the dynamics of international relations.
Over 700 million people in the world today have no access to electricity; that is about twice the size of the population of the United States. Moreover, there are about 2.5 billion people without a safe way to cook their food, relying on fuels such as charcoal, wood or dung to heat their homes and make cooking fires, which are often indoors and generate long-term health dangers for the world’s poorest people.
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