The devil is in the details.
Moving the world to 100-percent renewable energy under a Green New Deal, or the Paris climate accord, will require at least a twelvefold increase in the not-so-green practice of hardrock mining, according to a new study backed by prominent environmental consultants.
“The current global supply of several critical metals is insufficient to transition to a renewable energy system,” a new study released Thursday by Leiden University in the Netherlands and environmental consulting firms Metabolic and Copper8 concludes.
Transitioning to a global renewable energy system devoid of fossil fuels will place a strain on the supply of certain metals required to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines, according to the study, requiring twelve times today’s production by 2050.
And that estimate does not include increasing demand for other electronic goods like electric cars and iPhones, which also require the same metals, the study said.
Specifically, the demand for so-called “rare earth metals” such as neodymium, terbium, dysprosium, and praseodymium stands out as a potential problem for moving to a global energy system dominated by renewables. The metals are required for their conductivity properties.
The findings were presented this week at the United Nations COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland, which is looking for agreement on implementing the 2015 Paris climate deal.
Much of the planet’s rare earth metals come from China, making the U.S. particularly vulnerable to supply chain vulnerabilities, as the nation does not mine these substances.