Hottest year ever, what can be done? Plenty: more renewables and nuclear, less methane and meat

Jan 9, 2024, 1:21 PM

The shattering of global annual heat records last year is prompting people to ask: What can be done?

The European climate agency announced Tuesday that 2023 was 1.48 degrees Celsius (2.66 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than pre-industrial times. That’s barely within the international goal countries agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate accord to avoid a world devastated by climate change.

It’s the latest in a string of bad climate news, but scientists and energy experts have long laid out roadmaps — solutions — to reduce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that are heating up the planet. And there’s hope for the way forward, the International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook for 2023. Led by solar and electric vehicles, investment in clean energy has risen by 40% since 2020.

Proponents of nuclear power including energy experts say ramping up that carbon-free source can replace fossil fuels now as a way of making electricity.

Sharp cuts in methane emissions have become a global priority, as shown by the discussions at the United Nations COP28 climate talks in Dubai last month. And each person can reduce their impact on the environment through the choices they make, whether that’s saving energy at home, switching to an electric vehicle, reducing air travel or eating less meat and more plant-based foods.


Nearly 200 countries agreed last month at COP28 to move away from fossil fuels by tripling the use of renewable energy by 2030. It was the first time they’ve made that crucial pledge to transition, but it will require new installations at double the current rate.

UN chief António Guterres said a fossil fuel phaseout is “inevitable.” Scientists overwhelmingly agree the world needs to drastically cut the burning of coal, oil and gas to limit global warming. That’s because when fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide forms and is released.

As an example, a 200-megawatt onshore wind project consisting of roughly 50 turbines, on average, avoids the emissions equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road or planting 20 million trees, according to the American Clean Power Association. The United States, which has lagged far behind Europe and Asia in building large offshore wind farms, now has two sending power to the grid that could full open early this year.


To control global warming, the IEA says global nuclear capacity needs to expand by about 3% each year. The global nuclear industry launched an initiative at COP28 for nations to pledge to triple nuclear energy by 2050. More than 20 have already signed on, including the United States and the host of the talks, the United Arab Emirates.

The World Nuclear Association says this form of electricity can be deployed on a large scale in time to combat climate change by directly replacing fossil fuel plants. Unlike fossil fuel-fired power plants, nuclear reactors do not produce carbon dioxide while operating.

U.S. nuclear companies are also working on the next generation of reactors that are far smaller and cheaper than traditional ones. These small modular reactors and microreactors in the future could power a community, campus or military complex. Skeptics, however, caution that nuclear technology still comes with significant safety, security and environmental risks that other low-carbon energy sources don’t.


Methane, or natural gas, is an extraordinarily powerful greenhouse gas, more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. It’s responsible for about 30% of today’s global warming.

Many nations are prioritizing bringing down methane emissions as a crucial, quick way to curb further warming, because it doesn’t last as long as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere absorbing the sun’s heat.

The Biden administration last month issued a final rule aimed at reducing methane emissions, targeting the U.S. oil and natural gas industry for its role.

Separately, 50 oil companies representing nearly half of global production pledged at COP28 to reach near-zero methane emissions and stop wasting natural gas by burning it off, by 2030. Environmental groups, however, called the pledge a “smokescreen to hide the reality that we need to phase out oil, gas and coal.”


Every individual can make choices that protect the environment and slow climate change, according to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

The UN says start saving energy wherever possible — reduce heating and cooling, switch to LED light bulbs and energy-efficient electric appliances, wash laundry in cold water and hang things to dry. Improving a home’s energy efficiency through better insulation or replacing an oil or gas furnace with an electric heat pump can reduce the equivalent of up to 900 kilograms of CO2 per year.

Switching from a gasoline or diesel-powered car to an electric vehicle, taking fewer flights and shifting from a diet reliant on meat to a vegetarian one can also make significant dents in one’s carbon footprint, the UN said. Producing plant-based foods generally results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less energy, land and water.


The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

United States News

President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he arrives to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force B...

Associated Press

President Joe Biden says it was a ‘mistake’ to say he wanted to put a ‘bull’s-eye’ on Donald Trump

Biden told NBC News Monday that it was a “mistake” to put a “bull's-eye” on Trump, but argued that Trump's rhetoric was more incendiary.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Border arrests plunge 29% in June to the lowest of Biden’s presidency as asylum halt takes hold

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Arrests for illegally crossing the border from Mexico plunged 29% in June, the lowest month of Joe Biden’s presidency, according to figures released Monday that provide another window on the impact of a new rule to temporarily suspend asylum. Arrests totaled 83,536 in June, down from 117,901 in May to mark […]

1 hour ago

FILE - People walk past May Hall, the main administrative building at Dickinson State University in...

Associated Press

President of Dickinson State University in North Dakota resigns after nursing faculty quit

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — The president of Dickinson State University in North Dakota announced his resignation on Monday, days after the school’s nursing faculty quit. In a video, Steve Easton announced his departure and acknowledged “turmoil between some in the faculty and the administration.” Seven faculty members resigned Wednesday, KFYR-TV reported. Former Assistant Professor of […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: A look at false claims around the assassination attempt on former President Trump

The assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection, is fueling a range of false claims and conspiracy theories as authorities seek information about the 20-year-old shooter’s background and motive, how he obtained the AR-style rifle he fired at Trump and security at the venue that failed to stop the shooting. […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Christina Osborn and her children, Alexander Osborn and Bella Araiza, visit a makeshift memo...

Associated Press

Judge clears way for demolition of Texas church where 26 people were killed in 2017 shooting

FLORESVILLE, Texas (AP) — A judge on Monday cleared the way for the demolition of the small Texas church in Sutherland Springs where a gunman killed more than two dozen worshippers in 2017 in what remains the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. Following the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the church […]

2 hours ago

RNC Chair Michael Whatley speaks during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, 2024, i...

Associated Press

Outside RNC, conservative group defends its Project 2025 guidebook as Democrats ramp up attacks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — At the edge of the cordoned-off perimeter around the Republican National Convention on Monday, hundreds of conservatives filed into the ornate home of the Milwaukee Symphony to hear a parade of luminaries talk policy and Project 2025. Project 2025 is the term for the Heritage Foundation’s nearly 1,000-page handbook for the next […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Hottest year ever, what can be done? Plenty: more renewables and nuclear, less methane and meat