Solving the climate crisis is going to take a lot of mining
The solar power and electric vehicles we need to stop the climate crisis pose a different threat to people and the environment: a boom in mining. Moving away from fossil fuels depends on tech like batteries and solar panels that can provide alternative forms of energy. But digging up the raw materials can undermine human rights and destroy fragile ecosystems. As governments and industries try to tackle climate change by building up renewable energy, they’ll need to consider other problems unearthed in the process.
Policy experts writing in the journal Science warn that a more sustainable future could hinge on how leaders manage the demand for metals and minerals, including cobalt and lithium needed for rechargeable batteries.
“Mining, metals, and materials extraction is the hidden foundation of the low-carbon transition. But it is far too dirty, dangerous, and damaging to continue on its current trajectory,” Benjamin Sovacool, a lead author of the paper and professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex, said in a statement.
Batteries, for example, are a big source of both optimism and frustration when it comes to green energy. They power cleaner vehicles and store energy so that solar and wind power are still accessible even in unfavorable weather. The downside is that those batteries are made with cobalt. Most of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children work in mines to meet growing demand for the metal. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Dell, and Tesla have all been named defendants in a suit filed in December over the deaths of children working in cobalt mines…
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