Welcome to the Clean Green Future. Demand for rechargeable car batteries is predicted to rise 700% in the next four years. But even at current levels, children are already dying in mines in the Congo, and farmers in Chile are being forced off their land.
…a new report from UNCTAD, warns that the raw materials used in electric car batteries, are highly concentrated in a small number of countries, which raises a number of concerns.
…two-thirds of all cobalt production happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 20 per cent of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines, where human rights abuses have been reported, and up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income.
And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country’s Salar de Atamaca region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells. This has forced local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination, groundwater depletion and pollution.
The UN’s answer, of course, is not to slow the transition, but to project out three shades of hope. They hope people will find some other deposits of cobalt and lithium. They hope people will figure out how to recycle them, and they hope someone will design some batteries that use other materials.
In the meantime, though, little black lives in The Congo matter slightly less than an undetectable temperature change.
Former child labourer Yannick from Kolwezi, a city of more than 500,000 people in the south of the DRC, dropped out of school and went into full-time work at the age of seven. “People died in the mine, and you could suffocate when you are deep in the mine,” he said. “When it rained, it created a lot of landslides.
For his part, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said that in 2018, electric cars saved 40 million tons of CO2 worldwide, sufficient to reduce global temperatures by a mere 0.000018°C — or a little more than a hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius — by the end of the century.
“If you think you can save the climate with electric cars, you’re completely wrong,” Birol said.
Electric Vehicles use more fossil fuels than normal cars, unless you live somewhere like France and can run them on nuclear power. Otherwise these are largely coal-or-gas powered cars that may lower the fuel bill, but make electricity, jobs, and your lifestyle, unaffordable.