Stanford scientists outline the infrastructure changes needed to make 139 countries powered 100 percent by wind, water and solar energy by 2050.
A transition of this kind could mean less worldwide energy consumption due to the efficiency of clean, renewable electricity — leading to a net increase of more than 24 million long-term jobs, an annual decrease in 4 to 7 million deaths related to air pollution, stabilization of energy prices and annual savings of more than $20 trillion in health and climate costs.
“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,” Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program and co-founder of the Solutions Project, said in a news release.
“There are other scenarios. We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”
The research, published today in Joule, shows the raw renewable energy resources available to 139 nations and the number of wind, water and solar energy generators needed to make those countries’ power sources 80 percent renewable by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
Researchers examined each country’s electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industrial and agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.
The study showed that countries with a greater share of land per population, such as the United States, China and the European Union, would have the easiest time making the transition to 100 percent wind, water and solar energy. Small countries or those surrounded by oceans and that are highly populated such as Singapore, would have a harder time meeting this goal.
“Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the Earth’s atmosphere, transitioning eliminates 4-7 million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term, full-time jobs by these plans,” Jacobson said.
“What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits, and cost benefits”