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Published on December 29th, 2019 | by Mark Z. Jacobson


Green New Deals For The World Are Green Good Deals

December 29th, 2019 by  

The Earth is rapidly approaching 1.5°C global warming, air pollution kills over 7 million people worldwide each year, and diminishing fossil fuel resources portend social instability. Yet, recently, world leaders at the United Nations Madrid climate talks failed to agree on a path forward. The core of the problem is the belief by some leaders that solving global warming will be expensive and drain the economy of their country. However, new research indicates that this belief is incorrect. Solving the problems is much cheaper and creates many more jobs than not solving them while also keeping the lights on. This result was learned from a scientific study I and colleagues published December 20, in the scientific journal One Earth.

In that study, we developed Green New Deal roadmaps for each of 143 countries, representing 99.7% of global human-produced CO2 emissions. The plans involve transitioning each country’s all-purpose energy (electricity, transportation, building heating and cooling, industry, etc.) to 100% clean, renewable electricity and heat that is provided by wind, water, and solar (WWS) power after accounting for energy efficiency.

In this new paradigm, we will use electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles instead of fossil fuel or biofuel vehicles; electric heat pumps for air and water heating instead of gas, oil, or wood based heaters; electric furnaces instead of fossil fuel furnaces; and electric induction cooktops instead of gas cooktops. The electricity will come from wind turbines, solar panels, concentrated solar power plants, hydroelectric plants, geothermal electricity plants, tidal turbines, and wave devices. Building heat will come from solar and geothermal heat and electric heat pumps. We will also need electricity, heat, cold, and hydrogen storage. To avoid 1.5°C global warming, at least 80% of the transition needs to occur by 2030 and 100% by no later than 2050.

95% of the technologies needed — electric appliances, vehicles, and machines; electricity and heat generators; and storage devices — already exist. The main exceptions are long-distance, heavy aircraft and ships, which we believe hydrogen fuel cells and some batteries can power by 2030 to 2040.

We not only developed plans for each country but also divided the 143 countries into 24 world regions and tested whether the electric grid can stay stable in each region with a 100% wind, water, and solar system. This is important because the biggest concern people have about moving to variable wind and solar energy is whether the lights will stay on. We found that, indeed, 100% WWS for everything can keep the lights on worldwide. Summaries of what a reliable 100% WWS system in each region and among all regions of the world would look like can be found here and here.

The conclusions found here about grid stability with entirely renewable energy are consistent with those from dozens of other studies and the fact that 10 countries keep their lights on although they are already near or above 100 percent WWS in their electricity sector. These countries include Iceland, Norway, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Albania, Kenya, and Scotland. Most are powered primarily by hydroelectric power, but Kenya is powered primarily by geothermal and Scotland primarily by wind.

One of the most important results from our study is that, worldwide, WWS reduces energy needs by 57%. This is due to the efficiency of electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles over fossil fuel vehicles; the efficiency of electric heat pumps over fossil fuel heating; the efficiency of electrified industry over fossil fuel industry; eliminating energy to mine, transport, and refine fossil fuels, biofuels, and uranium; and modest energy efficiency improvements beyond those in a fossil-fuel economy.

This large reduction in energy requirements is important because it, along with a slight reduction in WWS energy cost per unit energy compared with fossil fuels, reduces all-purpose energy costs worldwide by an astounding 61% (from $17.7 to $6.8 trillion per year in 2050). Because WWS eliminates almost 7 million deaths annually and emissions associated with global warming, it also reduces social costs (energy plus health plus climate costs) worldwide by an even larger 91% (from $76.1 to $6.8 trillion per year). 

The upfront capital needed for this transition worldwide (which is spread over 30 years) is about $73 trillion.  However, this cost pays for itself in about 7 years due to the $11 trillion in annual energy cost savings due to WWS over fossil fuels. In the United States, the capital cost of the Green New Deal is $7.8 trillion. In Europe, it is $6.2 trillion. In China, it is above $16 trillion.

WWS creates 28.6 million more long-term, full-time jobs than lost worldwide, including 3.1 million in the United States, 2.9 million in Europe, and over 8.5 million in China. It needs only 0.65% of the world’s land, of which two-thirds is space between wind turbines that can be used for multiple purposes.

Finally, WWS eliminates most of the 7 million air pollution deaths per year, reduces energy insecurity , and eliminates energy emissions that cause global warming. Together with policies that address non-energy emissions, a Green New Deal worldwide will slow and then reverse global warming.

In sum, WWS needs less energy, costs less, and creates more jobs than current energy. What is there not to like? A transition to WWS will improve the quality of life while solving three major problems worldwide. It is truly a Green Good Deal. The key is to deploy, deploy, deploy as fast as possible.

Mark Z. Jacobson
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Stanford University



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About the Author

Mark Z. Jacobson is Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment and of the Precourt Institute for Energy. He received a B.S. in Civil Engineering, an A.B. in Economics, and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford in 1988. He received an M.S. and PhD in Atmospheric Sciences in 1991 and 1994, respectively, from UCLA and joined the faculty at Stanford in 1994. He has published two textbooks of two editions each and over 155 peer-reviewed journal articles. He received the 2005 AMS Henry G. Houghton Award and the 2013 AGU Ascent Award for his work on black carbon climate impacts and the 2013 Global Green Policy Design Award for developing state and country energy plans. In 2015, he received a Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for his work on the grid integration of 100% wind, water and solar energy systems. He has served on an advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, appeared in a TED talk, appeared on the David Letterman Show to discuss converting the world to clean energy, and cofounded The Solutions Project (www.thesolutionsproject.org).

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