As world leaders gather in Paris to talk about how to slow climate change, there is reason to believe that the global community may finally be ready to take united action against global warming. Even the G7 admits that the world will eventually need to adopt a completely carbon-free economy. In a recently published study, researchers at University of California and Stanford University reveal a road map that, if implemented, could allow humanity to make the switch to a carbon-free economy by 2050.
Despite protestations from politicians, it seems it is possible to transition away from fossil fuels without destroying the global economy. “These are basically plans showing it’s technically and economically feasible to change the energy infrastructure of all of these different countries,” says Mark Z. Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University. “People who are trying to prevent this change would argue that it’s too expensive, or there’s just not enough power, or they try to say that it’s unreliable, that it will take too much land area or resources. What this shows is that all these claims are mythical.”
Jacobson and his colleagues at the University of California created carbon-elimination plans specifically tailored for 139 countries. To create these road maps, researchers analyzed the future energy needs of the countries, then projected the costs of building renewable energy capacity and determined where this new power production would best be located. Making this global switch would save 4 to 7 million lives lost each year due to air pollution. The decentralization of power through renewable energy would also make electrical grids more resilient to natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Energy independence would reduce the tensions that fuel so much conflict around the world. Finally, the 20 million jobs created by the switch to clean energy would offset the jobs lost in the fossil fuel industry. A carbon-free economy can be built, but time will tell if political will exists to get the job done before it is too late.