Busting three myths about renewable materials and energy

Busting three myths about renewable materials and energy

Busting three myths about renewable materials and energy

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In the show, a group of special effects professionals tested myths from TV shows or popular knowledge, such as: Can a snowplow overturn a car? Can you fly using fireworks? Are elephants really afraid of mice? The team tried to find the answers in a process that often involved explosions and frequently enlisted the help of a crash test dummy they named Buster.


My process today as a journalist is a little different, but I think dozens of rounds of the MythBusters cycle – ask, seek, answer – definitely stuck with me.

The MythBusters pilot came out 20 years ago last week, so in honor of the occasion, we’re going to bust some myths about one of my favorite topics: the materials we need to fight climate change.

Myth #1: We don’t have enough materials to build what we need to fight climate change.

This one comes up often, and there’s a very good reason. We are going to need a lot of things to bring about a new zero emissions world.

To keep things relatively simple, I’m going to focus on the two industries that emit the most emissions today: power generation and transportation. Together, they account for nearly three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions.

To reduce emissions in these sectors, we need to build a lot of new infrastructure, especially new ways to generate electricity and batteries that can store it. So how much material are we looking at here?

Almost all construction requires some combination of steel, aluminum, and probably copper. According to a new study, to meet climate goals, we will need a lot of each of them just to build infrastructure to generate electricity. By 2050, demand could reach 1.96 billion tonnes of steel, 241 million tonnes of aluminum and 82 million tonnes of copper.

That sounds like a lot, and it is. But if you compare those numbers with the known reserves on the planet that we can access economically, that’s a small fraction. And annual production won’t have to grow by more than 20% for the supply of any of these materials to meet demand.


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