A new study demonstrates just how easy it might be to break up with fossil fuels. Researchers at the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex focused on Europe’s energy consumption and developed models to explore the possibilities of phasing out fossil fuels before it’s too late. Although G7 leaders pledged last year to end fossil fuel usage by the close of this century, the world’s leading climate scientists like James Hansen warn that we need to cut it out much sooner than that deadline. The new UK study suggests fossil fuels could be phased out completely within 10 years if government leaders commit to it.
Benjamin Sovacool is the study’s lead author and director of the Sussex Energy Group, a respected energy think tank. In the study’s introduction, he emphasizes the importance of speed in the global discussion about transitioning away from fossil fuel consumption by implementing more renewable energy production. “The speed at which a transition can take place,” he wrote, “its timing, or temporal dynamics—is a critical element of consideration.”
Rather than discussing the “why” behind the need to transition energy sources, Sovacool and his colleagues focused on the “how.” The team examined past trends in energy transitions, many of which took centuries to occur, and compared those examples with modern success stories of communities where energy transitions happened much faster. By looking at the mechanics behind rapid, successful transitions, the researchers were able to develop recommendations for the future. They conclude that, if we really want to, we can phase out fossil fuels completely within a decade’s time.
Indeed, the success stories all share some common traits, such as strong government intervention and changes in consumer behaviors and attitudes. This is what it will take to transition the entire planet. “Moving to a new, cleaner energy system would require significant shifts in technology, political regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, and the behavior of users and adopters,” Sovacool said. “Left to evolve by itself—as it has largely been in the past—this can indeed take many decades. A lot of stars have to align all at once. But we have learnt a sufficient amount from previous transitions that I believe future transformations can happen much more rapidly.”
The study was published last week in the journal Energy Research & Social Science.
Via Vice Motherboard