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Data: IEA; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Soaring amounts of key minerals used in clean energy tech are needed to fight climate change, but costs and supply risks could create big headwinds, a new International Energy Agency analysis finds.

Why it matters: "Today’s mineral supply and investment plans fall short of what is needed to transform the energy sector, raising the risk of delayed or more expensive energy transitions," IEA warns.

The big picture: Growth in solar and wind, electric vehicles, stationary battery storage and other grid technologies will require much more lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, graphite, rare earth elements and more.

  • That's especially true for clean tech deployment on a scale consistent with the goals of the Paris climate deal.
  • Though it varies by mineral, aggregate demand quadruples over two decades in IEA's "Sustainable Development Scenario." That's an energy system model that keeps temperature rise well below 2°C.
  • But new supply projects have a considerable time lag and are often accompanied by price volatility.

The intrigue: "An even faster transition, to hit net-zero [emissions] globally by 2050, would require six times more mineral inputs in 2040 than today," IEA finds.

Threat level: Rapid scale-up of clean energy could face "huge questions" about commodity reliability, availability and prices that could slow cost declines and create bottlenecks.

  • For instance, a doubling of lithium and nickel costs could offset all projected cost declines from a doubling of battery production.
  • "[I]n a scenario consistent with climate goals, expected supply from existing mines and projects under construction is estimated to meet only half of projected lithium and cobalt requirements and 80% of copper needs by 2030," IEA said.
Data: IEA; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Another part of the new IEA report shows the geographic concentration of mineral production and processing — as you can see it's very different than fossil fuel distribution.

  • "High levels of concentration, compounded by complex supply chains, increase the risks that could arise from physical disruption, trade restrictions or other developments in major producing countries," IEA notes.

What they're saying: The report recommends steps around supply chain diversification and new development in countries with untapped resources.

  • Another idea: "Voluntary strategic stockpiling can in some cases help countries weather short-term supply disruptions." Bloomberg has more.

What's next: The report offers recommendations for bolstering supply and reliability while addressing the environmental footprint of mining.

  • Some of it is chicken and egg — "strong signals" from policymakers about tackling climate change will drive supply investment.
  • IEA also calls for enhanced R&D to help use materials more efficiently and find substitutes.
  • The report also recommends more efforts around recycling and stronger environmental and human rights standards that reward responsible suppliers.

Go deeper: The renewable threat to biodiversity

Go deeper

Internet response to dire UN climate report was muted vs. 2018

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

This week's UN IPCC report made a bigger splash online than a special report the panel issued in 2019, but one that was well below 2018's examination of the feasibility of holding global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F), according to exclusive data provided by NewsWhip.

Why it matters: The data shows that the shock factor needed to jolt the public into demanding — and taking — action to curb the effects of climate change may be wearing off. It may also show that the report, or the media coverage of the findings, was too alarming and turned people off from engaging with it, given the headlines it generated.

Updated 1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a powerful and potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring an array of hazards, from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten coastal property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Republican-led Pennsylvania court deems mail-in voting law unconstitutional

Workers count ballots for the 2020 Presidential election at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Nov. 3, 2020. Photo: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Republican-led Pennsylvania court on Friday ruled that the state's mail-in voting law is unconstitutional.

Driving the news: Three Republican judges sided with Republican challengers and ruled that no-excuse mail-in voting is prohibited under the state's constitution. Two Democrats on the panel dissented.