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Scientists: Transitioning to Renewables Will Reduce Energy Costs

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A study in Nature found that it would cost the world six times as much money to continue burning fossil fuels until 2050. Researchers concluded it would cost $38 trillion in 2005 international dollars by 2049 to keep up with the gas standard, the “best-case scenario.”

It would also hurt the global economy, lowering per capita global income by 19% in the next 26 years. Doing nothing would be worse than taking action over the situation. 

Axios said $38 trillion is more than double the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the European Union. The paper, written by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, says that the economic damages would be six times worse than the cost of mitigating climate challenges and keeping the world under the 2 degrees Celsius warming rate (above preindustrial levels). 

The scientists explained that worsening weather variability, such as shifts in temperature and precipitation continue to occur. The shifts could seriously affect livelihoods like agricultural communities and nations with subsistence farming.

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The scientist all warned that developed nations must change their approaches to industry and commerce to get emissions below pre-industrial levels or risk a drop in per capita income. Countries with fewer resources contribute the least emissions but face some of the worst consequences. 

The study claimed that Northern regions like Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia could benefit from lower heating costs and extended harvest seasons, which does not help disincentivize continued fossil fuel burning. However, equatorial areas like Brazil, Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia will face steeper economic implications. 

The report followed after Simon Stiell, the United Nations climate chief, said in April that the world only has two years left to make the correct changes to reverse worsening climate impacts.

Halving emissions by 2030 would slow the 1.5 degrees C warming rate — the one the world agreed to maintain at the 2015 Paris climate talks. So far, 2024 has been a high-emission year, despite the COP28 meeting where promises about fossil fuel reduction were made. 

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Separate research backs up reduced or no fossil fuel consumption. A Stanford University professor published findings suggesting the world could switch to entirely renewable energy, which would pay for itself in just six years. Mark Jacobson concluded that all electricity sectors could switch to renewables like solar, hydropower, and hydrogen and could spread it via transmission. He said it would reduce energy use by more than 56% globally. 

“The reduction is for five reasons: the efficiency of electric vehicles over combustion vehicles, the efficiency of electric heat pumps for air and water heating over combustion heaters, the efficiency of electrified industry, eliminating energy needed to obtain fossil fuels, as well as some efficiency improvements beyond what is expected,” Jacobson wrote in The Hill.

Major legislation was passed requiring American businesses to be more transparent about their carbon emissions. The Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) now requires all businesses to report all Scope emissions.

Transparency would lead to a better understanding of where and how companies make emissions, giving the government and business leaders more information to improve their emission problems. 

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However, the SEC ruling is not overly popular. Some are trying to repeal the bill, citing concerns about consumerism. On the other hand, states like Vermont have passed laws requiring the oil industry to pick up the cost of climate adaptation, putting the onus on businesses to prepare for a more sustainable future.

The switch to renewable energy is supposed to drive a new clean economy, but it has to have all stakeholders involved to do so. More cleantech is developing rapidly, and the study suggests that short-term climate action would stifle some of the economic impacts of burning fossil fuels at our current rate. More jobs are being created with these infrastructure projects and the opening of cleantech factories, but everyone must buy in.


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