It could be as simple as this. Substitute fossil fuels with low carbon energy.
But the dimension of the a global energy transition is rarely debated. We must speed up rapidly, dramatically with the installations. It is very unlikely that we get there by 2040. And even that would probably be too late.
The good news: The technology is available and affordfable today, in contrast to many other approaches. Fossil fuels account for about 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions. The mass deployment of wind power, PV and a supergrid in combination with some storage technique seem to be the last chance to avoid the irreversible impacts of a global warming. This will not stop the process but eventually slow it down. And it has a positive side-effect: Wind, sun and also hydro energy will last forever. This site contains some background and estimations about quantities and magnitudes of a global energy transition.
The countdown is running: If emissions do not drop, the carbon budget for 1.5°C will be exhausted in 2028 according to the IPCC Special Report SR15 (p.96) The rise in temperature to that level would happen with some delay between 2030 and 2052 (p.66). 1.5°C is indicated as a critical point after which global warming could become irreversible and uncontrollable. Even if it was possible to achieve negative emissions in the future, 1.5°C must not be exceeded at any time to avoid the loss of ecosystems. The consequence: Radical emission cuts are required immediately. We are on the brink.
Slowing down is just too little if you rush towards the cliff !
Leave it in the ground !
Coal, oil and gas exploiters have never paid for the damage they cause. It's time to start with high carbon pricing above 200$/t per CO2 equivalent. Not many other regulations are required. With carbon tax or a tight concept of carbon certificates, large scale investments into renewable energies will start all by themselves. Wind and solar already outbeat coal, oil and gas in hours where they are available. But still, grids and storage is needed for a 24/7 supply. This needs a little boost. Competitiveness is the key to a global energy transition. Emission certifificates can be debated. But their amount must be limited to the carbon budget for 1,5° for all time with no exeption and include all sectors globally. This would be more diffult to manage than a simple carbon tax. Renewable energy needs fair market conditions, power net access and international cooperation. The transition to 100% renewable energy would probably be cheaper than the trillions yet to spend on oil, gas and coal. Once installed, operation costs for wind and solar are low - a long term benefit for society.
PV is cheap
0.0169 US$ per KWh is much less than any fossil fuel. And the price is dropping. In remote areas, there is much space for solar PV and wind plants. Installation is possible without any resitance by local residents and the land is cheap.
Coming to a solution
- Invest in wind, solar storage and grids. And hurry up!
- Ramp up production capacity for wind and solar facilities, HVDC cables, electrolysers and converter stations
- Connect the continents for 24/7 wind and solar availability: Long distance powerlines (HVDC) lose only 1.6% per 1000 km *1 The sun always shines somewhere. If the supergrid is strong enough, requirements for expensive storage systems decrease drastically
- Energy storage will still be required. Pumped hydro, compressed air and power-to-gas can be effective for large-scale storages, supplemented by batteries and hydrogen. However, storage means loss and less efficiency.
- Avoid fussil fuel investments of US$ 11 trillion which would be needed to keep up fossil production (for only a few more years)
*1 = 1,6 % per 1000 km loss at higest voltage level 1100 KV overhead. Submarine / underground cables use less voltage resulting in higher losses.
*2 = estimation by Chinese GEIDCO for 78% renewable energy
Who hesitates pays more
fossil reserves are limited. A transition to renewable energy must happen sooner or later. These investments cannot be avoided. The only question is when. Companies involved in coal, gas and oil exploitation are interested to slow down the process. They want their gains for a few more years. The money spent on fossil fuel is lost to the public. So even without climate change it would be wise to push forward a global energy transition. But actually climate change does not leave any choice.
It is illusionary to hope for any change of habits. The world population wants energy. The global energy demand increases by 2 - 3 % per year. The only possible answer is a massive installation of wind and solar power in remote areas. Renewables can compete already now. They just need to be connected. The supergrid is the key.
A complete world trasition to renewables is neccessary within 15-20 years
- Inventment friendly conditions are substantial.
- Calculate the most efficient balance between storage systems and global power grids
- Build up production capacity for HVDC cables, converter stations, wind and solar PV
- Support science for more effective prodution of these
- Green energy must become cheaper than coal, oil and gas by scaling effects and a carbon tax (180€/t recommended)
- Export opportunities: Russia, China, USA, India and Australia should become aware of their chances to install huge amounts of PV and wind power
- Forest fires counting for about 10-20% of CO2 emissions must stop.
- Meat consumtion: Beef ist most problematic. Society will have to change in this respect.
- Low-carbon agricultuture: There are sustainable alternatives to fertilizers
- Plastic production counting for about 2% of carbon emissions must be widely replaced by organic substances.
Can a change in lifestyle be the solution?
Currently, the debate about climate change is dominated by appeals to avoid air travel, meat and plastic. Even if a significant proportion of the world's wealthy population changes their habits somewhat, this would only reduce global emissions by a few percent. There is no alternative to replace fossil energies with wind, sun and hydro.
Please read on:
In depth: Climate change and energy transition
In a nutshell: Brief basic knowledge
in German language
umfassende Infos auf Deutsch
Klimawandel kurz erklärt
CO2-Preis-Rechner Wie teuer wertden Strom/Transport/Wärme/Nahrung? Mit und ohne Methan, interaktiv mit gleitenden Werten
CO2-Mengen vom Standby bis zur Flugreise mit interaktivem CO2-Steuer-Rechner (CO2 footprints with carbon tax calculator), Vorläufer
Erfahrungen von der Installation einer 10WKp-PV-Anlage auf dem eigenen Hausdach
Drei Phasen bis zu Null Emissionen 100% im Strommix sind noch die einfachste Übung
Abenteuer Wärmepumpe Eigene Erfahrungen von der Planung im Bestandsgebäude bis zu den ersten Verbrauchswerten