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782 Richest People Could Power Half the World With 100% Renewable Energy

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782 Richest People Could Power Half the World With 100% Renewable Energy

The personal fortunes of the 782 wealthiest people on the planet, many CEOs of major corporations, could power Africa, Latin America and most of Asia with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, said Friends of the Earth International in a new report released today.

Photo credit: Friends of the Earth International

Launched seven days before the UN climate summit in Paris, the report illustrates that the finance for an energy revolution certainly exists, while the political will to drive the transformation is so far shockingly absent.

Some of the key finding of the report, An Energy Revolution is Possible, include:

  • The wealth of the richest 53 people globally could power the whole of Africa with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

  • The wealth of the richest 32 people could power most of Latin America with 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

  • $5,148 billion of extra investment would be required to generate half the world’s electricity with 100 percent renewables by 2030. This is an investment equal to the wealth currently held by 0.00001 percent of the global population or 782 people. 

“This report is a wake up call for policy makers and governments. Our world faces two destructive and entwined crises—growing inequality and climate change. The time has come to address them together,” said Sam Cossar-Gilbert of Friends of the Earth International.

Climate change is already happening—wreaking devastation on communities and ecosystems around the world. Without urgent and drastic action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, we face far worse runaway climate change, with impacts that would dramatically overshadow anything we see today and affect predominantly the poorer people and nations, which are the least responsible for climate change.

Energy production from fossil fuels is one of the main contributors to sky-high levels of carbon emissions and tackling it is central to stopping a climate disaster.

"Our world faces two destructive and entwined crises—growing inequality and climate change." Photo credit: Friends of the Earth International

“Business as usual is now longer an option. Carbon emissions continue to rise. We need an energy revolution,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth International climate justice and energy coordinator.

“The energy transformation involves not just switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but also a deeper transformation including democratic ownership of renewable energy resources,” she said.

The comparisons with individual wealth are used as a stark reminder that the finance for halting dangerous climate change is certainly available. The report does not suggest that the wealth of some individuals can or should be directly used to drive the needed energy transformation.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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