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.