(Stephen Leahy’s article is also published in his Need to Know series and newsletter.)
Eliminate 90% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 15 Years
Here’s a way to slash emissions over 90% by 2035 without carbon taxes, biofuels, carbon capture, big reductions in consumption or lifestyle changes.
“…the new clean energy, food and transportation technologies will empower humanity to make choices allowing societies to meet their needs and prosper, while slashing up to 90 percent of global carbon emissions within just 15 years.”
“And provide the world with green energy, transportation and food that will be 2-10 times cheaper than currently.” — Rethinking Climate Change, by RethinkX, an independent think tank
Need-to-Know 1: We need drastic, unimaginable scale of change.
RethinkX is a data-driven organization analyzing new technologies for their potential to disrupt the current economy and cut emissions, preserve nature and enable all of us to prosper. I interviewed co-founder Tony Seba a few years ago. His ideas on how electric vehicle (EV) sales would take off and the potential of autonomous vehicles have largely panned out.
Seba, and 40 leading energy experts, published a report in February on how renewable energy could power the world by 2030. I covered that in a previous Need to Know issue.
RethinkX’s ideas are far from mainstream: Many would call them fantasies, others nightmarish (certainly for fossil fuel CEOs). I think they are on to something absolutely necessary but also frightening: System Change. At the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, over 100,000 people marched for climate action chanting: “System change! Not climate change!”.
Our status quo can’t continue as documented many times here on Need to Know. RethinkX agrees, and they show three sectors where major transformative changes are already underway with the potential to cut emissions 90% AND provide the world with green energy, transportation and food that will be 2-10 times cheaper than currently.
Summary of RethinkX’s ideas on systemic change.
This is essentially the same 100% renewable electricity plan from Global 100 per cent RE Strategy Group. It’s endorsed by well-known climate scientists such as Michael Mann of Penn State University. I wrote about it in detail in the NtK issue titled: Possible and Doable: 100 Per Cent Renewable Energy for the World.
By the late 2020s, all new vehicles produced will be electric. EVs are far cheaper to make, as well as own and operate. (President Biden just set a target of 50 percent of new sales being EVs by 2030.) Traditional vehicle manufacturing will collapse.
The economics of autonomous electric vehicles (A-EVs) will create an entirely new industry: on-demand A-EVs owned by fleet companies. These driverless vehicles will have ‘pilots’ at first — people who control the vehicles remotely to prevent accidents. These ‘robot taxis’ are being rolled out in some cities in 2022.
Car ownership will plummet since “transportation-as-a-service” will be far cheaper and more convenient.
Electric drivetrains can last over a million miles — million-mile batteries already exist. Freight and delivery transport will quickly shift to EVs and A-EVs later.
Precision fermentation and cellular agriculture can produce alternative proteins faster, cheaper, and with little environmental impact. Eventually these will replace all meat, dairy, eggs and other animal-based food products. RethinkX says this will free up some 2.7 billion hectares of land that current supports animal production. That land can be returned back to nature to boost biodiversity, with 20% of the land planted in trees to sequester billions of tons of carbon.
Precision fermentation combines modern biotechnology with fermentation to create “microbial cell factories” that are already beginning to produce specific proteins needed for alternative meat, milk, eggs and much more. One company makes protein powder from the air using renewable energy.
George Monbiot, the British environmental activist and columnist at The Guardian is a huge fan of this way of producing farm-free food.
Most of the technology to do all this is already here and commercially viable says RethinkX. The rest can be ready by 2025. And by 2035 we could see up to 90% reduction in carbon emissions, and net zero by 2040. And we’d all have more money in our pockets.
So, is this too good to be true or some kind of techno-dystopia?
I can’t say. All I know is we need radical change.
Is this the system change we need? Maybe.
Need-to-Know 2: New technologies can change things very quickly.
The transition from horses to automobiles, film cameras to digital, dumb phones to smartphones happened quickly. In fact, these all happened in 10 to 15 years.
RethinkX’s big ideas in the way our society generates energy, moves around and feeds people will be exponentially more difficult than any new product introduction. They rightly worry saying:
“We can achieve a net zero future – affordably, on time, and opening up huge opportunities for carbon-free prosperity – if policymakers make smart choices to enable these highest impact technologies and stop supporting legacy industries.”
That’s quite a caveat. However they say much of this is inevitable, (better, cheaper tech usually wins out) but it can be delayed.
Need-to-Know 3: Delay is deadly in our increasingly perilous situation.
Read the RethinkX report where various emission reduction scenarios are discussed in detail.
One last thought about the report from climate scientist and director of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute Tim Lenton:
“The new report ‘Rethinking Climate Change’ supports what a growing number of us are arguing – that positive tipping points of self-accelerating change can tackle the climate crisis and transform the economy much faster than conventional scenarios presume.”
Previously from Stephen Leahy:
There’s an Avalanche of Climate Bullshit Coming at Us
Why My Next Vehicle Will Be Electric
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