Of all the commodities that build and power civilization, only two – oil and coal – are set for output declines in the next decades as global warming threatens to turn Earth into planetary toast. Their carbon outputs are too high for comfort, and society wants them squeezed out of the energy mix.
The other commodities are not going anywhere. The world will need a lot more of the metals required to underwrite the transition to a clean economy – copper, cobalt, nickel, titanium, zinc.
Steel and cement will be needed in ever-increasing amounts, too; you can’t build Teslas out of carrots or skyscrapers out of timber.
How to clean up the latter? While environmental lobby groups, climate scientists and the new generation of Gretas have focused on oil and coal as the nastiest climate culprits, everyday commodities such as cement and steel have atrocious planet-burning credentials too.
Cement, the binding agent in concrete, is responsible for about 8 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. That’s more than three times greater than the emissions of commercial aviation. If cement were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter, behind China and the United States.
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