Floods, hurricanes, droughts and fires. A dramatic rise in sea levels and melting ice in the Arctic. Forced human migration; the destruction of oceanic and terrestrial ecosystems; the increasing disappearance of plant and animal species.
Climate change’s worst effects are no longer imagined, but very much with us. In 2015, signatories to the landmark Paris Agreement concurred that our best chance at stemming them was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Because most such emissions arise from the energy sector, the net zero vision includes a call to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind along with energy storage solutions like batteries.
But Teresa Kramarz says that simply trading one palette of energy sources for another is no simple matter. Although it is imperative that we transition to renewable energy, she says, the way in which this transition takes place requires careful public scrutiny. That is because building solar panels, wind turbines and batteries require extensive mining of critical minerals like copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium. This growth in mining has social and environmental consequences — particularly for vulnerable communities and ecosystems from Canada’s northern peatlands to the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Argentina’s salt flats.