Renewable Energy Can Run the World by 2050, New Study Finds

If we ever do get around to deciding that it’d be worth addressing climate change, at least there are reports that confirm in clear terms what we already know: The world could be powered almost entirely by renewable energy using technologies that already exist. We just have to find a way to get those solar panels, wind farms, and such out into action. And that, of course, is the tricky part.

But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we can do it. In a new energy report issued by the international body of scientists and policy experts, it’s argued that we can get 80% of our energy from renewable sources in just 40 years — but it would take a massive, concerted effort from the world’s governments and power brokers. The Guardian breaks down what would have to happen:

  • The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets demanded by scientists is likely to amount to about $5trn in the next decade, rising to $7trn from 2021 to 2030.
  • the production of renewable energy will have to increase by as much as 20 times in order to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.
  • Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050, the scientists predict.
  • wave and tidal power were “unlikely to significantly contribute to global energy supply before 2020”.
  • Wind power, by contrast, met about 2% of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to more than 20% by 2050.

Over at TreeHugger, I weighed in with the following:

“If the “full range of renewable technologies were deployed”, the report states, we could get to nearly 80% clean power in under 40 years, and keep the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere below 450 parts per million (scientists say it should be 350) … But there are clearly some massive hurdles between that goal — for instance, despite the fact that an investment of that size would only cost around 1% of global GDP annually, who’s going to come forward with that cash? Right now, global clean tech investment is a mere fraction of that ($240 billion or so).”

But let it be known that it can be done — to all those skeptics who say that renewables can’t get the job done, here’s yet another round of evidence to the contrary. We just need to muster the will to kick off the transition.

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Photo credit: langalex via Flickr/CC BY-SA

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant is a founding editor of the Utopianist.. When he's not helming the Utopianist, he is TreeHugger's politics writer, contributes the Getting Samy Out of Burma column to, and freelances for the likes of Salon and Paste. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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