The world can meet the Paris climate targets at about a quarter of the cost of current subsidies for fossil fuels, according to a new climate study funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
The study, entitled Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement, is the culmination of a two-year scientific collaboration with 17 leading scientists at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), two institutes at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the University of Melbourne’s Climate & Energy College.
It was funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and released by the scientific publisher Springer Nature. The model produced by the authors, called One Earth, offers a roadmap for surpassing the targets set by the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement,
According to Karl Burkart, Director of Innovation at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the One Earth climate model “is groundbreaking in that it shows the 1.5°C can be achieved through a rapid transition to 100% renewables by 2050, alongside land restoration efforts on every continent that increase the resilience of natural ecosystems and help to ensure greater food security.”
Lead author and editor Dr. Sven Teske, Research Director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), said, “Scientists cannot fully predict the future, but advanced modeling allows us to map the best scenarios for creating a global energy system fit for the 21st century. And with momentum around the Paris Agreement lagging, it’s crucial that decisionmakers around the world can see that we can, in fact, meet global energy demand at a lower cost with clean renewables.”
The scientists at UTS created a sophisticated computer model of the world’s electrical grids to date, writes Burkart, “with 10 regional and 72 sub-regional energy grids modeled in hourly increments to the year 2050 along with a comprehensive assessment of available renewable resources like wind and solar, minerals required for manufacturing of components, and configurations for meeting projected energy demand and storage most efficiently for all sectors over the next 30 years.”
The result shows that “not only is it possible to switch to 100% renewables for all energy uses, but it will cost no more to operate than today’s energy system. Moreover, it will eliminate the toxic pollution associated with the burning of fossil fuels, estimated to be the primary cause of 9 million premature deaths per year. The renewable energy transition will not only improve public health worldwide, it will also drive economic development, providing the 30 million people currently working in the energy sector with permanent, well-paying jobs and creating an additional 12 million new jobs.”
The proposed energy transition outlined in the One Earth climate model will require an investment globally of approximately $1.7 trillion per year, according to the study. Burkart notes that this amount “pales in comparison to the vast subsidies governments currently provide to prop up the ailing fossil fuel industry, estimated at more than $5 trillion per year by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Taxpayers are unwittingly funding the climate crisis, and that needs to stop. The research tells us that we could be creating the clean energy future we so desperately need for less than one-third of what we’re spending now, and in so doing improve energy access in the developing world.”
Leonardo DiCaprio, Founder of LDF, said, “This ambitious and necessary pathway shows that a transition to 100% renewable energy and strong measures to protect and restore our natural ecosystems, taken together, can deliver a more stable climate within a single generation.”
According to Burkart, an important element in the One Earth model is the role of natural ecosystems. Justin Winters, Executive Director of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, said, “Nature is the missing key. While the renewable energy transition is imperative to solving the climate crisis, it isn’t enough. Currently wildlands and oceans absorb one-half of all our CO2 emissions. As this climate model shows, in order to keep global temperature rise to no more than 1.5°C, we have to keep our natural carbon sinks intact, scale up restoration efforts and shift to regenerative agriculture. Without them we have no future.”
The climate model shows that by protecting natural ecosystems and completely phasing out deforestation in the 2030’s, we can maintain the integrity of the carbon sinks that are so vital to rebalancing our global climate system.
The newly released climate model is part of the larger One Earth initiative, launched by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 2017. The initiative builds upon the latest science to create a vision for the world that is possible in 2050, a world in which humanity and nature can coexist and thrive together. The vision is based upon three pillars of action – 100% renewable energy, protection and restoration of 50% of the world’s lands and oceans, and a transition to regenerative agriculture, all by 2050. “Together, these pillars of action give us a global roadmap to tackle the climate crisis and to ensure a sustainable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants,” writes Burkart.