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Adapted from IEA; Note: We simplified three names and some of these technologies are commercial. More info below. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Scaling up technologies key to combating climate change will take anywhere between 18 years to more than 100, the International Energy Agency found in a recent report.

Why it matters: Scientists say the world must find ways to drastically cut heat-trapping emissions over the next 30 years, but the path of innovating and scaling is stubbornly long, even in the best of scenarios.

How it works: The IEA is predicting how long a handful of nascent technologies, like long-haul electric trucks and different kinds of tech capturing carbon dioxide emissions, will take to go from an initial prototype project to capturing 1% market share of whatever country moves first.

  • IEA, a Paris-based intergovernmental research group, analyzed past energy-technology development pathways to determine the possible timeline for these ones.
  • These timelines are according to a specific scenario IEA modeled that assumes the world immediately begins on a pathway of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2070. Some countries and companies are setting net-zero goals by 2050, which would compel an even faster timeline.
  • The world is not currently on either pathway. Under the status quo, tech innovation will take even longer.
  • “Factors that have in the past led to discontinuous learning, including a lack of financial resources, fossil fuel price risk and political instability, are assumed not to affect innovation in the future,” the report states.

The intrigue: The technologies included on this chart are among the trickiest to make clean, such as industrial activities and long-haul transportation. The IEA has a similar chart on more developed tech, like wind, solar and nuclear power, on page 76 of its report.

Flashback: Even successful technology deployments, like solar photovoltaic and batteries in electric vehicles, took about three decades from their first prototype to time of commercialization, the IEA finds.

Yes, but: The future is notoriously hard to predict. For its part, the IEA is increasingly facing scrutiny from climate advocates and some climate journalism organizations for not being critical enough in its analyses of the role played by fossil fuels.

What’s next: IEA is releasing more data on this topic in a report in September.

Of note: For the chart, Axios simplified three names: hydrogen-based chemicals = electrolytic hydrogen-based methanol; carbon capture in steelmaking = enhanced smelt reduction steel with CCUS; and electric heavy-duty trucks = battery-electric heavy-duty trucks.

  • Within the technologies displayed, battery-electric heavy-duty trucks, hydrogen fuel cell-based cars, and carbon capture in natural gas-based steelmaking are already commercial.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 6, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Biden's climate diplomacy would face hurdles

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Joe Biden this week pledged again to immediately rejoin the Paris climate agreement if he wins the presidential election, but ultimately meeting his ambitions for the U.S on the world stage would be much tricker.

Why it matters: Biden would face big challenges and complex decisions after announcing the U.S. is back on the climate diplomacy circuit.

Why migrants are fleeing their homes for the U.S.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios Photo: Herika Martinez /Getty Images 

Natural disasters in Central America, economic devastation, gang wars, political oppression, and a new administration are all driving the sharp rise in U.S.-Mexico border crossings — a budding crisis for President Biden.

Why it matters: Migration flows are complex and quickly politicized. Biden's policies are likely sending signals that are encouraging the surge — but that's only a small reason it's happening.

Cities' pandemic struggle to balance homelessness and public safety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Addressing homelessness has taken on new urgency in cities across the country over the past year, as officials grapple with a growing unhoused population and the need to preserve public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: It’s led to tension when cities move in to clear encampments — often for health and safety reasons — causing some to rethink the role of law enforcement when interacting with people experiencing homelessness.