Given these research findings and calls for aggressive plans of action, it can be hard to feel at all positive about current efforts to address climate change. But there is good news.
But what about the unreliability of renewable energy sources by comparison?
The United States is working on that, too. Power from windy or sunny days can now be stored in batteries, which has been a tremendous contributing factor to the reduction in the price of renewable energy sources. In addition, there is hydropower, which is renewable, and nuclear energy, which is carbon-free. Both sources are not intermittent, meaning they can be relied upon for constant power, and can complement battery storage and provide backup to renewables. As the Green New Deal gains steam, there is also further hope for an even more concerted economic transition to clean energy jobs and infrastructure.
So how much would it actually cost the United States to replace all fossil fuels as the Green New Deal recommends? Not nearly as much as you might think.
In the process of transitioning to a clean energy economy, we would also progressively eliminate the huge cost of fuel, an additional savings of about $1 trillion, by my calculation. Putting those figures in context, after factoring in miscellaneous savings, we are only looking at adding an approximate $1.1 trillion to go carbon-free by 2050 on top of what we’re already spending on outmoded forms of energy generation. That breaks down to $34.4 billion per year for the next 32 years — less than 0.2% of the current GDP. Right now, the United States is spending roughly $50 billion per year on infrastructure for power generation and the grid. So, we do not have to spend more, we just have to spend smarter.
Green New Deal proponents suggest we aim to become carbon-free within a decade or so. Given the sheer volume of investment needed, this is implausible: Midcentury seems the earliest we could reasonably expect to approach this goal.
While we still have quite a way to go, we have begun the journey to a stable climate and a more sustainable economy where we can generate all the electric power we need without fossil fuels. And it may cost less than continuing on our current path.