Concerning the Jan. 10 letter, “Letter writer was wrong about climate forum,” we no longer have to argue with climate deniers. The solution to the climate crisis is coming fast and it’s not scientific or political — it’s economic. Few people realize it yet, but the market has already spoken: clean energy has defeated fossil fuels. It’s game over for coal, oil and natural gas.
And just in time. The international scientific community is unanimous in saying we now have only about a decade left to make 75% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid “catastrophic” global warming that would cause “global economic collapse” followed by “societal” collapse (IPCC/National Academy of Sciences).
Solar and wind energy, with storage included and without subsidies, is now cheaper than any fossil fuel (forbes.com), worldwide and their prices continue to drop substantially every year (scientificamerican.com). Current projections are that clean energy will be “essentially free” by 2030 (UBS/Financial Times).
U.S. utilities in Colorado, Arizona and California are already locking in long-term contracts for solar and wind at 2 to 3 cents per kWh before the prices drop lower. It’s a penny more per kWh with storage. The average cost for energy from fossil-fuel power plants is now about 12 cents per kWh.
In November of last year a company backed by Bill Gates announced it has successfully used artificial intelligence to produce solar power that generates extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius. It can be used to manufacture industrial products like steel, glass and concrete more cheaply than any fossil fuel (cnn.com, marketwatch.com). Electric cars and trucks are now as cheap or cheaper than conventional vehicles.
The smart money is already moving out of fossil fuels and into solar and wind. What started as an idealistic divestment movement a few years ago is now turning into a rush for the exit on the part of many big institutional investors with trillions in their funds, mutual funds, pension funds, government funds — they are all divesting trillions and re-investing them in clean energy. In the last year alone, $6.5 trillion was divested and over $11 trillion more was pledged to divestment.
Jeremy Rifkin, an economist who has been a prominent advisor to the EU and China on transitioning to clean energy says the collapse of the fossil fuel industry could begin as soon as 2023 and will be well underway to 2028.
Fossil fuel mega-corporations will be left with trillions in “stranded assets,” fossil fuels in the ground they’ve already paid for (actually they’re in deep debt for them) which they’ll never be able to sell because they will be just too expensive.
Coal is already rapidly going bankrupt in the U.S. and the same will happen internationally to all fossil fuels, just more slowly because greater political corruption overseas will allow fossil fuels to be subsidized by governments they give kickbacks to. But that can’t go on for very long as solar and wind out-competes them.
In the U.S., the transition will probably be more rapid. Now we just need to plan for what that will mean. Rifkin’s new book, “The Green New Deal,” has lots of information, advice and details about what the deal could consist of and how it would work best. There are also YouTube videos. For a short version, Google “The Third Industrial Revolution.”
Of course, it would also help if we elect a president and congressional representatives who have some idea of what’s happening and can help lead us forward intelligently to minimize disruption.
Looks like capitalism may save us after all.
Lynn Goldfarb, Lancaster, Pa.