70% Of The World Could Run Entirely On Renewable Energy by 2050

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – By 2050, there’s every possibility that 139 countries – including the UK, US, China and other major economies – could run entirely on energy created by wind, water and solar! That’s according to new research by scientists from Stanford University. It would not only mean that the world would avoid dangerous global warming, but also prevent millions of premature deaths annually and create about 24 million more jobs than would be lost. Rooftop solar panels and major solar power plants; offshore and onshore wind turbines; wave, hydroelectric and tidal schemes; and geothermal energy—all would be used to replace fossil fuels to generate electricity, power vehicles and heat homes.

This study presents roadmaps for these 139 countries. They are far more aggressive than the Paris agreement calls for, and yet are still technically and economically feasible. The solution is to electrify all energy sectors from transportation, to heating/cooling, to industry, agriculture, forestry, fishing and provide all electricity with 100% wind, water, and solar power. If fully implemented by 2050, the roadmaps will enable the world to avoid 1.5°C global warming and millions of annual air-pollution deaths. Plus, create 24.3 million new long-term, full-time jobs, reduce energy costs to society, reduce energy end-use by 42.5%, reduce power disruption, and increase worldwide access to energy.

These benefits are so enormous and essentially cost free, that internationally, society should be moved to accelerate the transition to wind, water and solar very quickly. The team from Stanford University is led by Professor Mark Jacobson, who warns the stakes are high. The authors write, “The seriousness of air-pollution, climate, and energy-security problems worldwide requires a massive, virtually immediate transformation of the world’s energy infrastructure to 100 per cent clean, renewable energy producing zero emissions.”

The research team decided to exclude nuclear power, coal with carbon-capture-and-storage, biofuels and bioenergy from their vision of the future because they believe there are the risks of weapons proliferation and the chance of a power plant meltdown. The roadmaps also show that as fossil-fuel supplies dwindle and their prices rise, economic, social and political instability may follow unless a replacement energy infrastructure is developed well ahead of time. Their research has been published in the journal Joules.

Recently, an important paper came out in Science, called ‘Estimating Economic Damage from Climate Change in the United States. While this paper focused on the US, the analysis and lessons can be applied globally. What the authors found is that ‘unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the US. The authors calculate that the end-of-century temperatures will lead to costs on par with the Great Recession and a recession that will be permanent!

However, what emerges from this paper is that planning is urgently needed—that takes us back to the roadmaps by Stanford University. By identifying and quantifying the impacts, we can begin to create a social system and bio-systems that are more resilient.

Joules, SPhoto Credit: Stanford University