Can solar energy meaningfully address climate change?

coal powerplant

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), emissions-free solar technologies could provide one quarter of the world’s power needs by 2050, which would displace more than 6 billion tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually. That's more than all of the energy-related carbon emissions currently produced in the United States, or the equivalent to roughly 20% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. 

It is also important to note that the lifecycle emissions of GHGs from solar technologies are a small fraction compared to those from traditional electricity generation sources. Even if you add all of the emissions associated from mining the materials that make up the solar panels, as well as the emissions from the energy necessary to manufacture and transport them, there are still substantially fewer emissions from mine to fuel-free electricity over the life of the panel. And the total lifecycle emissions will continue to decrease as the world’s energy mix becomes less carbon intensive over time.

Licensed Photo by Robert S. Donovan