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The Understand Energy Learning Hub is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Energy and Climate Change

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Fast Facts About
Climate Change

Greenhouse gases (GHG) are heat-trapping gases that occur naturally in our atmosphere and regulate the Earth’s temperature. GHG levels in our atmosphere have increased significantly since pre-industrial times due to carbon-intensive human activities like fossil fuel combustion, and we have seen a corresponding increase in the Earth’s temperature that is resulting in harmful impacts on humans and our environment. The good news is that we have the tools and solutions ready to scale today to tackle climate change.


Atmospheric CO2 Concentration (parts per million)
2021: 415ppm
Pre-industrial peak: 300ppm

Human GHG Emissions, Top 3 Sectors
Electricity & Heat: 32%
Transportation: 17%
Agriculture: 12%

Human GHG Emissions by Contribution to Global Warming
Carbon Dioxide (CO2): 73%
Methane (CH4): 18%
Nitrous Oxide (N2O): 4%
Fluorinated Gases: 2%


Global Average Temperature Rise Since the 19th Century
1.1°C / 2.0°F

Key Impacts of Climate Change
↑ Drought
↑ Heat waves
↑ Sea Level
↑ Hurricanes
↑ Winter storms
↑ Wildfires
↑ Biodiversity loss

Sea Level Rise Over Past 100 Years
6 - 8 in / 15 - 20 cm


Annual GHG Emissions, Top 3 Regions
China 🇨🇳
U.S. 🇺🇸
India 🇮🇳

Cumulative GHG Emissions, Top 3 Regions
U.S. 🇺🇸
European Union 🇪🇺
China 🇨🇳

Per Capita GHG Emissions, Top 3 Regions
Qatar 🇶🇦
Bahrain 🇧🇭
Kuwait 🇰🇼

Countries Most Vulnerable to Climate Change Impacts
India 🇮🇳
Myanmar 🇲🇲
Vietnam 🇻🇳


% of Scientists Who Believe in Human-Caused Climate Change
97%

% of US Public Who Believe in Human-Caused Climate Change
57%


Top 6 Cost-Effective Solutions to Climate Change by Mitigation Potential
Solar photovoltaics
Wind energy
Energy efficiency and electrification in buildings
Reforestation
Decarbonized industrial processes
Vehicle electrification


Solution Drivers

  • Cost-competitive solutions are ready to scale today
  • Policy support at international, national, and local levels (e.g., GHG reduction targets, clean electricity targets, carbon pricing mechanisms, building and vehicle electrification mandates)
  • Private sector engagement from large corporates, investors
  • Continued innovation and cost declines in hard-to-abate sectors (industry, air and ocean travel) and for engineered carbon capture technology

Solution Barriers

  • Need more ambitious policy from governments at all levels to accelerate scaling of solutions, including effective carbon pricing
  • Need more investment capital to accelerate scaling of solutions
  • Lack of social will: divergence between public and the science, influence of incumbent fossil fuel interests, competing priorities (energy prices and geopolitics), lack of international climate agreement, lack of individual empowerment

Updated July 2022

Our 10-Minute Take On
Climate Change

If you're short on time, start by watching this video of key highlights from our lecture on Energy and Climate Change.

Kirsten Stasio

Presented by: Kirsten Stasio, Adjunct Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University; CEO, Nevada Clean Energy Fund (NCEF)
Recorded: Nov 15, 2022  Duration: 12 minutes

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Before You Watch Our Lecture on
Energy and Climate Change

We assign videos and readings to our Stanford students as pre-work for each lecture to help contextualize the lecture content. We strongly encourage you to review the readings and videos below before watching our lecture on Energy and Climate Change

Our Lecture on
Energy and Climate Change

This is our Stanford University Understand Energy course lecture on climate change. We strongly encourage you to watch the full lecture to understand the significant role that energy plays in climate change and to be able to put this complex topic into context. For a complete learning experience, we also encourage you to watch / read the videos and readings we assign to our students before watching the lecture.

Kirsten Stasio

Presented by: Kirsten Stasio, Adjunct Lecturer, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University; CEO, Nevada Clean Energy Fund (NCEF)
Recorded on: November 15, 2022   Duration: 53 minutes

Table of Contents

(Clicking on a timestamp will take you to YouTube.)
0:00 Introduction and a Framework for Solving Climate Change
8:09 What is the Science Behind Climate Change?
20:47 How Do We Garner the Social Will to Act on Climate Change?
32:15 How Do We Solve Climate Change?

Lecture slides available upon request.

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Additional Resources About
Climate Change

Stanford University Professors

Fast Facts Sources
Atmospheric CO2 Concentration (The Keeling Curve: Accessed July 2022)
Human GHG Emissions: Top 3 Sectors in 2019 (Historical GHG Emissions (including LULUCF), Climate Watch)
Human GHG Emissions: By Contribution to Global Warming in 2019 (Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change April 2022)
Global Average Temperature Rise: Since the 19th Century (Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change April 2021)
Key Impacts of Climate Change: (Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change April 2021)
Sea Level Rise: Over Past 100 Years (Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change April 2021)
GHG Emissions: Annual, Cumulative, Per Capita (Historical GHG Emissions (including LULUCF), Climate Watch: Accessed July 2022)
Countries Most Vulnerable to Climate Change Impacts (2020 Environmental Performance Index, Yale University)
% Scientists Who Believe in Human-Caused Climate Change (Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2021, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, February 23, 2022)
% US Public Who Believe in Human-Caused Climate Change (Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2021, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, February 23, 2022)
Cost-Effective Solutions to Climate Change by Mitigation Potential: Top 6 (Table of Solutions, Scenario 2, Project Drawdown: Accessed April 2022; Scaling 36 Solutions to Halve Emissions by 2030, Version 1.5, Exponential Roadmap January 2020)
More details available on request.
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