Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and 26 researchers have developed revolutionary roadmaps for 139 nations to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050.
"We're not just trying to examine the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, jobs benefits, and cost benefits."
—Mark Jacobson, report author
"What's different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we're not just trying to examine the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, jobs benefits, and cost benefits," said Jacobson, director of Stanford's Atmosphere and Energy Program and co-founder of the Solutions Project, a U.S. nonprofit that advocates for transitions to renewable energy.
"Policymakers don't usually want to commit to doing something unless there's some reasonable science that can show it's possible and that's what we're trying to do," he told Clean Technica. "We're not saying there's only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction."
The roadmaps, published in the sustainable energy journal Joule on Wednesday, envision the countries that are collectively responsible for more than 99 percent of global carbon emissions shifting away from fossil fuels to power generated by water, wind, and the sun.
"The solution is to electrify all energy sectors," the report says, including transportation, heating and cooling, industry, agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Each nation's proposal varies based upon economic and geographic conditions, but collectively they would depend on 57.6 percent solar power and 37.1 percent wind power, while also utilizing geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal, and wave energy.
"Most of the electric technologies that we propose for replacing fossil-fuel technologies are already commercial on a large scale today (e.g., electric heat pumps for air and water heating, induction cooktops, electric passenger vehicles, electric induction furnaces, electric arc furnaces, dielectric heaters), but a few are still being designed for commercial use (e.g., electric aircraft and hybrid hydrogen fuel cell-electric aircraft)," the report notes.
Researchers intentionally excluded nuclear energy, because of associated risks and high costs, as well as biofuels and "clean coal," which have much higher emissions than renewable sources. As study co-author Mark Delucchi told NBC News of the renewable power sources included in the proposal: "It is likely that no other energy options can provide such enormous global social benefits."
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If all roadmaps were implemented by 2050, researchers predict their proposal would avoid 1.5°C global warming, prevent millions of annual air-pollution deaths, and create more than 24 million full-time jobs worldwide. Such expected benefits align with other recent findings showing the solar industry already employs more people than coal, oil, and natural gas combined.
In addition to substantially curbing carbon emissions to slow global warming, and saving millions of lives by limiting air pollution, researchers also predict the plan would:
- stabilize energy prices;
- use minimal new land;
- enable countries to produce as much energy as they consume;
- increase energy access by up to 4 billion people worldwide;
- and decentralize the global power supply, reducing risks of large-scale disruptions posed by broken machines or terrorism.
"We strive to reduce energy costs, create jobs, stabilize energy prices, eliminate air pollution, health problems and eliminate global warming simultaneously," Jacobson told NBC News. Praising the proposal, Mark Dyson writes for Rocky Mountain Institute that it "helps push forward a conversation within and between the scientific, policy, and business communities about how to envision and plan for a decarbonized economy."
The new report follows earlier roadmaps, published by Jacobson and his colleagues in 2015, for all 50 states in the U.S. to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy—part of a trend among climate researchers to develop comprehensive proposals as a way to help policymakers remain committed to, but also go beyond the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Earlier this year, a few weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris accord, Paul Hawken and a team of researchers released Drawdown, which "maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming," and claimed to be "the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming," offering similar suggestions to those outlined by Jacobson and his team.
And that fact is central to the new In These Times cover story by 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who says a transition to 100 percent renewable energy—though it should have happened 25 years ago—must now occur "as fast as humanly possible."