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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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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