Stanford Scientists: Switch to Renewables Would Save 7 Million Lives Per Year, Create 24 Million Jobs
By Tim Radford
Californian scientists said a fossil fuel phase-out is achievable that would contain climate change, deliver energy entirely from wind, water and sunlight to 139 nations, and save up to 7 million lives each year.
They said it would also create a net gain of 24 million long-term jobs, all by 2050, and at the same time limit global warming to 1.5°C or less.
The roadmap is entirely theoretical, and depends entirely on the political determination within each country to make the switch work. But, the researchers argued, they have provided a guide towards an economic and social shift that could save economies each year around $20 trillion in health and climate costs.
Here's How 139 Countries Can Convert to 100% Renewable Energy by 2050 https://t.co/JmB74UzsvM @howarth_cornell @brianvad @neocarbonenergy— Mark Z. Jacobson (@Mark Z. Jacobson)1503507875.0
The scientists have provided the calculations for only 139 of the 195 nations that vowed in Paris in 2015 to contain global warming to "well below" 2°C, because these were the nations for which reliable energy data was publicly available.
But these 139 nations account for perhaps 99 percent of all the carbon dioxide emitted by human combustion of fossil fuels. And the clean-energy answer covers all economic activity—electricity, transport, heating and cooling, industry, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
"Policymakers don't usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do," said Mark Jacobson of Stanford University's atmosphere and energy program.
"There are other scenarios. We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction."
Jacobson and 26 colleagues reported in the journal Joule that their roadmaps to a new energy world free of fossil fuels and of nuclear energy can be achieved without the mining, transporting or processing of fuels.
According to their roadmaps, 139 nations could be 80 percent complete by 2030 and entirely committed to renewable sources by 2050. Jobs lost in the coal and petroleum industries would be more than compensated for by growth in the renewable sectors, and in the end, there would be more than 24 million new jobs worldwide.
Energy prices would become stable, because fuel would arrive for free: there would be less risk of disruption to energy supplies because sources would be decentralized. And energy efficiency savings that go with electrification overall could reduce "business-as-usual" demand by an estimated 42.5 percent.
Bill McKibben: 100% Renewables Needed 'As Fast as Humanly Possible' https://t.co/hctwGHWHb4 @Act4Renewables @green_energy_uk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1503662108.0
"Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5°C degrees global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the earth's atmosphere, transitioning eliminates four to seven million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term full-time jobs by these plans," professor Jacobson said.
"What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits and cost benefits."
The study is an extension of earlier research by professor Jacobson at Stanford: he has presented a master plan for renewable energy for all 50 U.S. states, and along with other researchers presented detailed arguments for the most efficient use of wind power, and even proposed that as a bonus wind turbines could sap the ferocity of hurricanes.
His is not the only group to calculate that the U.S. could free itself of fossil fuels and their associated costs. Nor is his the only group to make the case that clean power can save money and lives in the U.S. and elsewhere.
But the new study recognizes that global conversion from fossil fuels to sunlight, water and wind power won't be easy. The European Union, the U.S. and China would cope better because there is greater available space per head of population: small densely-populated states such as Singapore would face greater challenges.
There is also the challenge of political will: President Trump has announced that rather than work with the rest of the world to reduce the risks of climate change, the U.S. will withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement, and other researchers have repeatedly pointed out that the Paris accord is itself not enough, and is not being acted upon with sufficient vigor, anywhere.
Nor will the process be without contention. Professor Jacobson has lately been the focus of a bitter academic argument about whether fossil fuels can be entirely phased out without recourse to clean coal, nuclear energy and biofuels.
But the study in Joule excludes nuclear power because of the high costs, the hazards and the problems of disposing of waste. Biofuels and coal in any form also cause pollution.
The Stanford team wants to see what could be called a clean break with the past. Space shuttles and rockets have already been powered by hydrogen, aircraft companies are exploring the possibility of electric flight; underground heat storage—to cope with fluctuating demand—would be a viable option, and shared or "district" heating already keeps 60 percent of Denmark warm.
The switch to renewables would require massive investment, but the overall cost would be one fourth of what fossil fuel dependency already costs the world.
"It appears we can achieve the enormous social benefits of a zero-emission energy system at essentially no extra cost," said Mark Delucchi of the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California Berkeley, a co-author.
"Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible, by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
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<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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