May 2016 marks the 10-year anniversary of Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ Gore’s film brought climate change to the world’s attention.
Since then a lot has changed – for the better.
Carbon pricing has been introduced. Over time, coverage will expand and prices will rise.
Trillions of dollars of perverse fossil fuel subsidies are coming under scrutiny. Over time, these subsides will be eliminated. This will shift investment from cheap dirty energy toward better, cleaner sources.
Renewable energy technology is improving very rapidly. This is creating a positive spiral of lower costs, increased demand and further take up.
It’s all happening at quickening speed. In a recent TED talk updating ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ Gore’s argued the battle against climate change is now being won.
There is, however, still a downside.
Since 2006’s release of ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ annual global carbon emissions have increased to early unprecedented levels. This is making the future behavior of Earth’s atmosphere harder to confidently model.
Recent heatwaves and warm winters are unprecedented. Storms are becoming stronger and more destructive. Ice sheets are shrinking at unprecedented rates Clearly, there is much work to be done.
But don’t underestimate the power of technology and societal change. Between now and 2040, global warming will worsen while carbon reduction solutions ramp up. The next 25 years will present the ultimate danger zone for the planet. Hard times lie ahead.
The reason: much of the past 10 years has been squandered fighting rear guard actions by fossil fuel interests denigrating scientific reality, Now that two of America’s biggest coal companies have filed for bankruptcy, things may change. As these albatrosses kill themselves off, technology and economics will come to the rescue.
The inspiring precedent is the computer age.
Over just 30 years, the internet (technology), the breakup of telecommunications monopolies (economic reform) and the spread of the mobile phone (market innovation) have changed human existence for the better.
In the next 30 years, the same process will occur with energy. During this time, a global energy grid will emerge (the technology), decentralized merchant energy production bought and sold in real time markets (economic reform), and micro-scale energy solutions linked to centralized marginal supplies (the conceptual equivalent of mobile phones).
The technology is in place. The plan is in place. The will is there. What’s needed is the economic plan.
What the world needs now is more than just zero interest rates create economic growth and avoid recession and deflation to take hold
Over the next 30 years, the world needs is a massive infrastructure investment plan to create a global energy grid. This grid will carry electricity and hydrogen from anywhere, to anywhere. Doing so will pull the global economy out of deflation. This will stimulate economic demand through large-scale infrastructure investment followed by the massive market efficiencies it creates.
Over time, the plan will pay for itself. Through taxing carbon and eliminating fossil subsidies, trillions of dollars can be freed for building the global clean energy infrastructure of tomorrow. Building this infrastructure will create a massive global economic stimulus with a powerful muliplier effect.
Given that such investment — properly constructed — can last a century or more, building it can create the long-lived investment repayment flows that can fund the huge looming costs of an aging global population.
The result will be a richer, healtthier, more peaceful, more economically effcient global economy at less existential risk.
Between now and 2020, the world should negotiate the pathway to a global energy grid by 2060. Already, template plans exist. These can be built out in stages. They could start with domestic infrastructure upgrades, followed by cross border interconnections, intra-regional interconnections followed by inter-regional network integration.
This was the template the Internet gave us. We should now apply it to energy.