Setting out to rebut defeatist and cynical claims that transitioning the entire global energy system to 100% renewables by 2035 is infeasible, a group of dozens of leading scientists from around the world unveiled a joint declaration Tuesday arguing that such a transformation of the fossil fuel-dependent status quo is not only necessary to avert climate disaster but eminently achievable.
What's required, argue the 46 signatories of the new 10-point declaration (pdf), is sufficient political will, international coordination, and concrete action on a massive scale to institute a total "re-design of the global energy system."
"We have lost too much time in our efforts to address global warming and the seven million air pollution deaths that occur each year, by not focusing enough on useful solutions," said Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.
"Fortunately, low-cost 100% clean, renewable energy solutions do exist to solve these problems, as found by over a dozen independent research groups," added Jacobson, one of the seven original signers of the declaration. "The solutions will not only save consumers money, but also create jobs and provide energy and more international security, while substantially reducing air pollution and climate damage from energy. Policymakers around the world are strongly urged to ensure we implement these solutions over the next 10-15 years."
The year 2035 has been described by some scientists as the "deadline for climate action" at which humanity "could cross a point of no return" if governments fail to drastically reduce global carbon emissions in the years prior.
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The scientists' new declaration, characterized as a concise summary of decades of findings from some of the world's leading energy researchers, argues that a "transformation to 100% [renewable energy] can occur faster than current expectations: the power sector can transform by 2030 and the other sectors soon thereafter."
In addition to helping the world avert catastrophic warming, the researchers argue that such a transformation would also "stimulate investments of trillions of dollars and create millions more jobs than lost worldwide" while providing "sustainable energy security for future generations."
The full 10-point declaration states:
- Numerous studies have investigated 100% renewable energy (RE) systems in regions, countries, and worldwide, and they have found that it works, not only for providing electricity, but also for providing all energy.
- A transformation to 100% RE can occur faster than current expectations: the power sector can transform by 2030 and the other sectors soon thereafter. With political will, a transformation of the global energy sector by 2030-35 appears to be possible!
- Electricity in a 100% RE system will cost less than in our current energy system; the total energy cost of a 100% RE system will be lower than the cost of conventional energy, even if we exclude social costs.
- The total social cost (energy, environmental, climate, and health cost) of a 100% RE system will be drastically lower than of business as usual. The sooner we achieve a 100% RE system, the faster these savings will be realized!
- A 100% RE system can supply regions, countries, and the world reliably (24-7) with energy at low cost.
- A massive re-design of the global energy system will be needed, including increasing energy efficiency on all levels.
- Solar and wind will be the key pillars of energy supply, plus flexibility in many forms, especially storage, sector coupling, demand response management, large- and small-scale grid integration.
- The studies agree that electricity will take a massively increasing share (about 80-95%) of the global energy supply. Electrification will result in a superabundance of cheap clean, renewable energy, increasing prosperity for all humanity.
- All our studies show that creating the new 100% RE system will benefit the world economy. It will stimulate investments of trillions of dollars and create millions more jobs than lost worldwide. Superabundant clean, renewable energy will create wealth and provide a boost for every sector of the global economy.
- Such a rapid transformation is necessary to stop the 7 million human deaths that occur annually today worldwide from air pollution, to slow the growing damage due to global warming and thus avoid the climate catastrophe, and to provide sustainable energy security for future generations.
Stressing the viability of the kinds of transitions that will be necessary to achieve 100% renewable energy across the globe by 2035, the coalition's website points out that
To date, 11 countries have reached or exceeded 100% renewable electricity; 12 countries have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2030; 49 countries have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2050; 14 U.S. states and territories have passed laws or executive orders to reach up to 100% renewable electricity by between 2030 and 2050; over 300 cities worldwide have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by no later than 2050; and over 280 international businesses have committed to 100% renewables across their global operations.
"The transformation to 100% renewables is possible," the scientists said, "and will be coming much faster than the general expectation."