With much of Australia on fire and basically every climate scientist jumping up and down screaming that the time to get this whole CO2 thing under control was a few years ago, more and more people are waking up to the threat of the climate crisis.
But as much as we all love koalas and leaving a habitable earth for our children, we're still human. We need to find jobs, pay the rent, and save for retirement. It's natural to love a healthy economy as well as a healthy earth. Are the two opposed? Do you have to choose between being all in for a Green New Deal-type transformation of our economy and prosperity?
A new Stanford study has crunched the numbers and come to a simple conclusion: In the slightly longer term, at least, the answer is no. The research found that the cost of revamping the world's economy to run entirely on renewable energy would be huge, but it would also pay for itself in just seven years once we got everything up and running. Bloomberg reports:
It would cost $73 trillion to revamp power grids, transportation, manufacturing and other systems to run on wind, solar and hydro power, including enough storage capacity to keep the lights on overnight, Mark Jacobson said in a study published Friday in the journal One Earth. But that would be offset by annual savings of almost $11 trillion, the report found.
"There's really no downside to making this transition," said Jacobson, who wrote the study with several other researchers. "Most people are afraid it will be too expensive. Hopefully this will allay some of those fears."
That sounds like good news, but don't be too relieved just yet. Just like everything else about the climate crisis, Jacobson's research is contentious. An earlier paper of his set off an acrimonious debate with other experts and even a short-lived (and much ridiculed) court case. Other skeptics insist that some of the required technologies to make the switch still need to be perfected.
But hey, that's science. The whole idea is that smart people battle it out as they circle in on the truth. While this paper is unlikely to be the final word on the issue, it is at least a step toward acknowledging the need to transition away from a carbon-based economy and figuring out how to do that in a way that will eventually make us all more prosperous.
Plus, from an the point of view of an entrepreneur willing to play the long game, it also suggests there is money to be made in clean tech. Here's hoping scientists, politicians, and business leaders converge on a path forward before it's too late.