Mark Jacobson: Barriers to 100% Clean Energy are Social and Political, Not Technical or Economic
As world leaders prepare to gather in Paris for a landmark climate summit, a new analysis from Stanford University and University of California researchers lays out roadmaps for 139 countries, including the world's major greenhouse gas emitters, to switch to 100 percent clean, renewable energy generated from wind, water and sunlight for all purposes by 2050.
Mark Z. Jacobson, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and director of the school's Atmosphere/EnergyProgram, said the roadmaps should give negotiators and leaders confidence that they can meet energy demands in all energy sectors—including electricity, transportation, heating and cooling, industry and agriculture—with clean sources.
“The main barriers to getting to 100 percent clean energy are social and political, not technical or economic," Jacobson told members of Congress and ambassadors from countries participating in the negotiations during a forum Thursday in Washington, DC.
All the roadmaps are available via an embeddable collection of interactive maps on The Solutions Project's website.
Jacobson and his colleagues found that future costs for producing clean energy are similar to a business-as-usual scenario of about 11 cents per kilowatt hour, similar to the average cost in America today. The air pollution and climate costs due to fossil fuels, however, are virtually eliminated by clean-energy technologies.
Overall, the analysis found, the business, health, plus climate costs of a 100 percent clean and renewable energy system were more than 60 percent lower than those of a business-as-usual system.
Switching to 100 percent clean energy would prevent four to seven million premature deaths each year globally from pollution associated with fossil fuels. By comparison, about six million people die prematurely each year from smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Globally, the transition to clean, renewable energy would create more than 20 million more jobs than would be lost in the transition. It would also stabilizeenergy costs, thanks to free fuels such as wind, water and the sun; reduce terrorism risk by distributing electricity generation; and eliminate the overwhelming majority of heat-trapping emissions that contribute to climate change.
The researchers also calculated that just 0.3 percent of the world's land footprint would have to be devoted to energy production under a 100 percentclean energy scenario. That is less than the size of Madagascar.
Jacobson and his colleagues are also slated to publish a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Nov. 23 which examines how to achieve reliability under a 100 percent clean energy scenario for the U.S.
The countries in the roadmap include the world's major emitters, and were selected based on available International Energy Agency data. Last week, the IEA's energy outlook concluded for the first time that renewables are already set to outpace coal as the world's leading source of electricity.
“The past few years have seen dramatic increases in the growth of renewable energy," Jacobson said. “Countries can ramp that up even faster and enjoy a host of economic and health benefits by doing so."
Earlier this month, National Geographic highlighted Jacobson's earlier research on clean energy roadmaps he drew up for all 50 U.S. states, calling the project a “blueprint for a carbon-free America." The magazine will highlight his new research on the 139 country roadmaps to clean energylater this month. The paper, along with underlying data and tables are available on Jacobson's faculty website. The analysis uses the same methodology as a previous study published in Energy and Environmental Science, and will be formally published in a journal next year.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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