What will the world look like in 25 years if we DO tackle climate change head-on?

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Senator  Elizabeth Warren asked for essays about “What the world would look like in 25 years if we don’t tackle climate change head-on?” http://my.elizabethwarren.com/page/s/climatechangequestion

A more important question that has not been discussed is: What will the world look like in 25 years if we DO tackle climate change head-on?    Brain science tells us that the brain acts powerfully to achieve a future, but avoiding a catastrophe doesn’t work so well. Here’s my narrative. Enjoy!

In 25 years after tackling climate change head-on we will have greenhouse gas emissions down by 80%, and the climate recovering. This is initiated by a 2014 gradually increasing carbon tax, and investors then running to invest in wind and solar generation around the world. As fossil fuel use disappears, asthma disappears, oil dictators disappear, and employment soars as money previously sent to oil magnates in Texas and Saudi Arabia now stays local and is used in construction and research.

As global investors shift their $1 trillion per year from finding and developing new fossil fuel reserves to constructing new wind and solar capacities, the construction of new renewables in the US increases rapidly, and we go from 2014’s 5% wind and solar to 10% by 2016. The cost of renewables continues to decrease, and a carbon tax causes the cost of fossil fuels to increase even faster than the 10% per year we see now. Soon much of the global $5 trillion per year spent on fossil fuels is invested in building renewables, and we get to 25% renewables by 2020. Then the payback time for rooftop solar is 3 years, and the return on utility scale solar is 20%, and trillions of dollars of global investment is rushing to fill the opportunity to replace fossil fuel production and earn reliable 10% returns while they can. By 2025 we’re at 65% renewables, and storage and smarter grids are becoming common, having been perfected by Germany, which is staying 10 years ahead of the US in developing renewable technologies.

Developing countries mostly abandon grid power for microgrids powered by renewables by 2017, and by 2025 have abandoned most of their legacy and corrupted fossil power for reliable renewable power sources that rely on local sun, wind, an biomass, not imported fuel.

This leaves us with a global economy independent of oil dictators, with Russia no longer dominating Europe with natural gas imports. The polar icecap recovers, and the extreme storms and droughts we have seen after 2005 dissipate to previously normal levels.

What triggers this tackling of climate change? A gradually increasing carbon tax that signals to scared investors that the future lies in renewables, not fossil fuels.

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Restoring the climate: A trip of a thousand miles begins with the first step

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There is enormous debate about climate change, its causes, who to blame, and its solutions. I’m passionate about Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) because I believe the adage: “A trip of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.

The first step to restoring the climate is a massive build-out of clean energy, starting now. That build-out requires massive capital, and that capital flow requires that investors feel safe making the investment. And a predictable, gradually increasing carbon tax is almost universally accepted by economists and investors to be the tool to create that sense of safety, predictability which investors need to change course from fossil fuel investments to wind and solar.

Even though wind and solar are more profitable and more predictable than fossil fuels, investors feel uneasy with the unpredictability of subsidies and regulations, so they stay the course.

Global fossil fuel energy use totals 13 terawatts (10,000 gigawatts). To replace this power at $8/watt (new wind capacity in the US costs about $1.70/watt today and yields 25% utilization) could cost $100 trillion dollars. That sounds like a lot of money. However globally we spend >$5 trillion per year to purchase fossil fuels and find new sources. If we only shifted our fossil fuel spending to building renewables, in 20 years we’d have built enough capacity to replace our fossil fuel consumption. And that investment pays for 20-30 years–it doesn’t literally go up in smoke.  Of course renewables costs are still falling, and fossil fuel costs are still rising, so in 15 years we could be at 80% renewables, at which time we’d know how much storage and other infrastructure will be really needed.

A trip of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The first step for restoring the climate is to get investors to invest massively in clean energy, which for now is wind and solar. Join or start a local citizens climate lobby group. citizensclimatelobby.org