Decarbonization's Hidden Cost: Population Disruption

Decarbonization's Hidden Cost: Population Disruption ...

Bilina, a coal mine in the Czech Republic, is the subject of a credit from Marketa Hendrychova.

Recent research from the University of Queensland and the University of Göttingen examined the implications of transitioning to clean energy by connecting global resource inventories with demographic data to uncover potential hazards and benefits. The findings suggest that increasing demand for energy transition metals (ETMs) may be more disruptive to some communities than decreasing thermal coal production.

While halting coal production might affect at least 33.5 million people living in mine-town areas, an additional 115.7 million might be impacted by energy transition metals (ETMs), according to the researchers.

Dr. Kamila Svobodova's photo shows the research results: a map of Australia with "mine-town systems."

In order to assess interactions, dependencies, and contingencies between resources and populations, the researchers correlated the location and type of resource with human settlements — a "mine-town systems" approach. Energy transition metals refer to the minerals necessary for wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles.

Dr. Kamila Svobodova, the researcher who conducted the research, is an honorary research fellow at the University of Queensland and is on a research fellowship at the University of Göttingen. "These findings will help inform future energy transition planning and regulation."

This study underscores the need for more detailed socio-economic data on individuals living and working in affected areas as well as for targeted macro-level planning in order to facilitate a fair transition from coal to ETMs for local people.

"We are able to develop a global-scale model that can be extended to national jurisdictions and regions under pressure from the energy transition," Svobodova adds.

Kamila Svobodova, John R. Owen, Deanna Kemp, Vtzslav Moudr, Éléonore Lèbre, Martin Stringer, and Benjamin K. Sovacool, Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-35391-2

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