A new study by Stanford University has found that it is possible for 70 per cent of the world to be completely powered by renewable energy by the mid-century.
Mark Jacobson and 26 researchers detailed individual roadmaps for 139 countries to transition to 100 per cent wind, water, and solar energy—a drastic change that could happen by 2050. The report was published in sustainable energy journal Joule.
Jacobson, the director of Stanford’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, and his team examined the question of whether it was both technically and economically possible for nearly 140 countries to convert to 100 per cent renewable energy. The selected countries—which include the U.S. and Canada—are responsible for 99 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions.
The study also included one significant caveat: the major conversion could happen with mainly existing technologies and only a few developing technologies. The solutions rely on wind, water and solar energy, and seeing electric technologies replacing fossil-fuel technologies.
“These roadmaps provide the first specific plans ever produced by country for the world to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming,” said Jacobson to Stanford Woods. “You don’t need to believe in global warming to believe in 100 percent clean, renewable energy, which has so many additional benefits.
These benefits Jacobson is referring to include creating jobs, reducing air pollution, cutting energy costs, and stabilizing energy prices.
The research found that by avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming, countries could save the four to seven million people who die each year from air pollution. Switching to renewable energy would also create 24.3 million net long-term jobs globally—a finding that further quashes President Donald Trump’s “lost jobs” argument for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.
The study states these roadmaps are “far more aggressive” than the global action plan detailed in the Paris climate agreement. The proposed country-by-country roadmaps envision 80 per cent conversion by 2030, reaching 100 percent 20 years later. The new plans enable countries to produce as much energy as they consume.
However, Jacobson notes that while it is a feasible transition, that the main barriers for countries to be powered by renewable energy alone are both social and political.
“Both individuals and governments can lead this change. Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” said Jacobson in a statement. “We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”
The up-font capital cost for the 139 countries is $124.7 trillion. However, the study shows that the transition would avoid an average of $28.5 trillion annually in 2050 global-warming costs.
The new research expanded on Jacobson’s previous effort in 2015 that created plans for each U.S. state to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.