The good news this week is that researchers from German nonprofit Energy Watch Group and Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland presented at the COP23 climate conference in Bonn that is is possible for the world to transition to 100% renewable energy by the year 2050 or sooner. Far from causing the global economy to implode, as many fossil fuel advocates suggest, the report claims the transition to renewables would actually create 36 million new jobs worldwide.
Hans-Josef Fell, president of the EWC, says in his foreword to the report, “100% renewable electricity system is an effective and urgently needed climate protection measure. A global zero emission power system is feasible and more cost effective than the existing system based on nuclear and fossil fuel energy.”
In order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to 2º Celsius or less, “We need a two fold strategy — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to zero and to remove surplus carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A key aspect of this strategy should be a transition to an emission-free global economy, based on 100 percent renewable energy.”
The researchers claim renewable energy costs would levelize at around $60 per megawatt from today’s average of $80 per megawatt.
Here’s the bad news. Climate activist Bill McKibben, father of the Keep It 100 campaign, attended this year’s climate summit. He told German news magazine Deutsche Welle in an interview before the start of the conference, “If we have any hope of preventing absolute civilization challenge and catastrophe, then we need to be bringing down carbon emissions with incredible rapidity, far faster than it can happen just via normal economic transition.”
While McKibben agrees the economic theories presented by EWC and LUT are sensible and realistic, he is less than optimistic that world governments have the political will to follow through on the steps necessary to prevent a climate emergency. “That depends entirely on whether we can build movements large enough to break the power of the fossil fuel industry that holds us where we are,” McKibben said. “To go further, what we need are many people in the streets demanding action and pushing governments to move much, much faster than they’re currently contemplating.”
He goes on to tell Deutsche Welle, “We’ve used up most of what scientists have described as the carbon budget. We are producing carbon at record levels, year after year. It’s begun to plateau, but at such a high level that it’s not doing us much good. I can go on for a long time, but suffice it to say that pretty much everything that we’ve taken for granted on the surface of the planet is now in major flux. And even those places that seemed idyllic and safe are now places of fear and of flux (emphasis added).”
McKibben’s call for civilian protest is all well and good, but in many countries around the world, the rules that govern civil disobedience are tightening in new and threatening ways. In the United States, many of the protesters at last year’s Standing Rock protests were arrested and charged with felonies punishable by up to 40 years in prison.
Several states have new laws on the books severely punishing those who dare to impede pipeline construction. Some states are considering laws making it OK for any motorist to mow down pedestrians who block roads and highways, regardless of the consequences. Anti-terrorist legislation has been flipped to make any form a civil protest punishable by grossly disproportionate fines and prison terms. The joke going around is that environmental protesters will soon be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay to be dealt with as enemy combatants. But it’s no joke. The level of contempt for ordinary citizens by government officials, beginning with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is higher than perhaps at any time in history.
If we are all going to take to the streets, Bill McKibben, a lot of us are going to be fighting the good fight while held incommunicado behind penitentiary walls. Hopefully, the warden will allow us to continue reading CleanTechnica while there, but that is far from assured.