Report Calls for Huge Global Investment in Energy

President Obama today urged Congress for $5 billion in green-manufacturing tax credits, but the reality is that global investment in clean energy will have to reach into the trillions if we are going to limit climate change.

The International Energy Agency, in a July 1 report, says that huge investment is required, but also noted that the returns will exceed that amount. An estimated $46 trillion could cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050, and yield fuel savings alone of $112 trillion, along with other economic, social and environmental benefits.

The IEA says that energy-efficiency, such as the retrofit work performed by the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, will become the most important "fuel" of the future. Low-cost options for reducing consumption - and many of those options are available now - represent the greatest potential for cutting CO2 emissions by 2050.

But that is hardly enough. By 2050, reneweables would have to represent about 50% of the power generation, up from 18% today. In the IEA scenario, more than 50% of all light-duty vehicle sales worldwide would be plug-in hybrid or electric.

And the world has to start getting serious now. "The next decade is critical," the report states. "If emissions do not peak by around 2020 and decline steadily thereafter, achieving the needed 50% reduction by 2050 will become more much costly. In fact, the opportunity could be lost completely."

That's because any attempt to achieve a 50% reduction after that point would require even more CO2 reductions over a shorter time frame and at higher costs. It won't be easy or cheap; government funding globally for research and development will have to climb two to five times higher than current levels.

The annual investment in low-carbon energy technologies over the last three years averaged $165 billion. Implementing the IEA plan would require $750 billion per year by 2030 and $1.6 billion annually from 2030 to 2050.

That's a formidable task, but must be done, says three-time Pulitzer Prize recipient Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times. Friedman, in his 2008 best-selling book, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," says that climate change is occurring considerably faster than climatologists originally thought - "and may unfold in an even more unmanageable and disruptive manner than they expected."

Research shows that the variability of the earth's orbit and other factors cited by "deniers" of global warning can't account for current trends, he says. "Measurements definitively show that the carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere in the last 50 years - from 280 parts per million to 384 parts per million - has come from carbon released in fossil-fuel combustion," according to Friedman.

He contends the world is dangerously close to the tipping point, but also says that the countries dedicated to going green will have an advantage. "The ability to develop clean power and energy-efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country's economic standing, environmental health, energy security and national security over the next 50 years," Friedman states.

We best get cracking.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean and alternative energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.