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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Plummet, but COVID Hurts Clean Energy in Long Term

Source: International Energy Agency

Global carbon dioxide emissions for 2020 are forecast to be more than six times lower than they were in 2010 — the last time emissions dropped significantly. This amounts to an 8% decrease from 2019, according to a report from the International Energy Agency, following COVID-related lockdown measures that have put social and economic activity on hold. 

Despite the circumstances by which the emissions drop came about, many of its consequences — cleaner air, emerging wildlife and better water quality — have been celebrated across the world. However, with a global economic recession playing out, investments in energy systems have been deprioritized, “slow[ing] the expansion of key clean energy technologies” the report’s authors note. They predict a 10%-15% decrease in investment in efficiency and end-use applications in 2020.

Many are looking to “build back better” and urging governments to incorporate renewable energy investments into recovery plans to “stimulate job creation and economic development,” the report says, “while reducing emissions and fostering further innovation.”

Global Donations to Ukraine Top $1.5 Billion

Institutions and companies around the world have donated over $1.5 billion to Ukrainian charities since the start of the crisis in February, according to the foundation Candid.

Corporate giving programs account for the majority (60%) of the grants and pledges given to Ukraine at over $900 million. Public charities and foundations combined account for 31% of donations raised, with high-net-worth individuals accounting for almost 5% of donations. The top funder so far is Epic Games, which raised $144,000 by donating the money that Fortnite players spent over two weeks. 

Almost a third of the grants went to organizations in Ukraine, with others going to the Red Cross and other international organizations. Of the donations directed toward a certain population, half are for the relief and resettlement of the over 5 million Ukrainian refugees. Over a quarter of those donations are for the care and protection of children. Only women, children, and the elderly are able to flee the conflict, as Ukraine has banned all able-bodied men between 18-60 years old from leaving the country. 

Smart Grid Technology Is Taking Off Globally

Renewable energy sources will account for 95% of the increase in power capacity through 2026. But changing energy supply and consumption patterns are complicating demand planning and investment decisions for the energy sector. This is exacerbated by more frequent climate-influenced operational disruptions and stricter sustainability regulations.

Furthermore, legacy grid infrastructure often struggles to keep pace with industry innovations, underscoring the importance of an accelerated yet considered transition towards a smarter, more resilient grid. Many countries across the world are already starting to transition: Canada is putting about $80 million toward utility modernization work; Sweden, Finland, Spain and Italy have installed smart meters at a rate of 95%; China is working to install 30GW of battery storage capacity over the next three years; and Mexico, Paraguay, El Salvador and Chile are aiming to only sell zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. 

To navigate this transition successfully, stakeholders across the value chain must balance the imperative to modernize with the financial obligation to capitalize on existing infrastructure assets. Expanded risks associated with the transition — new cyber vulnerabilities, data privacy protection obligations, and gaps in workforce talent — must also be mitigated.

Greenhouse Gases Hit Record Highs in 2021

For Earth Day 2022, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a stark reminder of our impact on Earth’s climate: carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere again reached record highs in 2021. 

For the second year in a row, NOAA scientists measured the level of methane in the atmosphere and found the largest annual increase since NOAA started measuring methane in 1983. Methane levels averaged 1,896 parts per billion during 2021, or about 162% greater than pre-industrial levels (before 1750). Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming.

Carbon dioxide, the primary driver of climate change, also hit a record high again last year at 414.7 parts per million. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased by about 50% since 1750, driven by fossil fuels and deforestation. This is more than carbon dioxide’s increase over the 20,000-year period from the Last Glacial Maximum to the Industrial Revolution. Scientists say that carbon dioxide emitted today will continue to warm the planet for thousands of years.

Last week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world had until 2030 to reduce our carbon emissions by 43%, or the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach.

Half of US Taxpayers Pay 97% of Income Taxes

This week is the deadline for millions of U.S. taxpayers to pay their taxes. According to IRS data on income taxes in 2019, U.S. taxpayers paid $1.6 trillion in income taxes — and 96.9% of the taxes were paid by half of American taxpayers. The top one percent — Americans who earn $546,434 or more — earned one-fifth of all total adjusted gross income and paid 38.8% of all federal income taxes.

The share of income taxes paid by the high-income earners (the 1%) has increased over time. From 2001 to 2019, the 1% share rose from 33% to 38.8%. Over the same time period, their share of adjusted gross income also increased, from 17.4% to 20.1%.

The top 50% of taxpayers paid 97% of all income taxes, while the bottom 50% paid the remaining 3%. The bottom half of taxpayers — who earn below $44,269 a year — paid 3%, or slightly over $48 billion, of all federal individual income taxes. Their share of reported income decreased from 2001 to 2019, from 14.4% to 11.5%.

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