Are We On Track To Stop Climate Change?

Not every problem can be solved by throwing more money at it, but climate change is one of them. Simply investing enough money in clean energy – fast enough – will in fact stave off the worst of climate change, because reducing carbon dioxide emissions is really as simple as building enough wind farms and solar farms and other non-polluting sources for our energy.

If we had rallied earlier and invested more in making the switch to the low carbon economy, we could have headed it off for less. But, even at this late stage, we can still make the difference between an uninhabitable planet for our descendants, and one that is merely much more tragic, with more financial and personal losses from more frequent and extreme weather disasters.

climate change, susan kraemer

image via Shutterstock

How fast would we need to change, and how much would it actually cost? (Of course, “cost” is a silly way of putting this investment. First, because the alternative is much more costly, as the British government economist Nicolas Stern calculated: climate change is the mother of all expenses. And second, because one man’s expense is another man’s income. If preventing climate change was something Republicans espoused, it would be called the biggest “wealth creator” – because every last nut and bolt of renewable energy that gets built, is money in the pocket of somebody who makes, sells, finances or designs it.)

Back in 2009, the International Energy Agency (IEA) famously calculated that in order to head off climate change’s worst effects, a global investment of $10.5 trillion would be needed in clean energy by 2030, in order to turn the carbon ship around – which if evenly split each year, amounts to about half a trillion ($500 billion) a year for about 20 years.

Here is how that global $500 billion each year compares with our recent annual investments since that pre-Copenhagen calculation.

In 2010, the world invested $187 billion in building renewable power sources, less than half the amount needed. But it was more than the dirty energy investment that year at only $157 billion in new fossil energy sources, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, marking the first year where we had a higher level of investment in renewable energy than in dirty energy. So the ratio switched, with a focus on the right kind of energy to do the job.


  • Reply January 25, 2012

    Start Loving

    Brava. Brava. Brava.u00a0 Unless you, and or others drive this reality in to the press, there is no hope.u00a0 Brave.u00a0 Lester Brown’s Plan B 3.0 provides us the best yardstick to measure progress by but neither he nor others have used it as such.u00a0 Brave.u00a0 Please make this a regular focus.

    • Reply January 31, 2012

      Susan Kraemer

      Thank you, Start.nnI actually did start out writing from frustration with the media like yours.u00a0nnThe data produced on page 31D of the NYT or the WSJ had the slant reversed: the “$100 billion in costs to supply clean power to the least developed” – meaning “oh dear, that is too costly; please let’s just not”.u00a0nnI would rewrite the story as the news that the data suggests that supplying this will be a $100 billion opportunity for the clean energy sector.

  • Reply January 25, 2012


    Okay, 10.5 trillion or 500 billion a year.u00a0u00a0u00a0 But have you subtracted what’s not going to be spent on fossil fuel sources.u00a0u00a0 That’s a lot of money that’s not going to have to be spent buying coal, oil and nat gas.

    • Reply January 31, 2012

      Susan Kraemer

      Very good point! And not just one time capital expenses for these – but the yearly fuel costs of keeping their power plants fed!

  • Reply January 25, 2012

    Robert Bernal

    Should be spending billions on developing just robotic factories that mass produce (the best kind of) solar panels and batteries. We need like 250,000 square miles of it globally. Imagine the install jobs!nPut everything else aside… unless we want to consider closed cycle molten salt reactors, the other, easier alternativeu00a0(such as LFTR and IFR). Kinda technical, but MUCH safer and more efficient that the water cooled reactors in use today. The key to unlimited clean energy (aside from renewables) is being able to fission thorium (and deal with the many chemical processing steps involved).

  • Reply January 26, 2012


    Look at – a decade of ‘so-called’ renewable energy costing billions has seen the emissions of co2 not just continue to increase but actually ACCELERATE..nWhy?. The reason is obvious and like wars and poverty – mankind is uncontrollable.nEmissions have 78 million more people every year needing additional energy.nThe major renewables – wind, tide & sun -u00a0are intermittent – ie unreliable. and need thermal back up.nThe only way fossil fuel will stop burning is when there’s none left.nGreen lobby condems the use of emmission free nuclear energy -u00a0even the fusion variety.nnPessimist – no a realist – like -u00a0have a look at Las Vagus at night asu00a0an example of the uncontrollable problem. nnThere a dozen more effective solutions thanu00a0these hugely expensive and useless wind farms.nnn

    • Reply January 26, 2012


      Wind power is intermittent at any given place, but the wind is always blowing somewhere. What we need is a smart grid to distribute the power from where the wind is blowing to where it is needed. For example, a series of offshore wind installations could supply all power, continuously, for the East Coast states. The same should be true for the West Coast. That’s most of the US population.nnAnd the sun is always shining on the hottest days, when demand for electrical power is highest. nnSupplement this with tidal and hydro power, and you’ve got it covered.

  • Reply March 30, 2012


    I wish these people would either educate themselves, or stop lying to everyone about climate change. Even if we stopped ALL use of fossel fuels, 100%, we still would’nt be able to influence the climate. What is happening is NOT man caused. The climate has been fluctuating for millions of years, and it will never stop. And who are they to say what the ideal temp is anyway? Just because they like it the way it was 50 years ago? Sure. This planet has been through many cycles of (extreme) heating and cooling WAY before we had SUV’s, gas and oil burning furnaces, wood stoves and the like. The Earth does what it does and we can NOT do anything to cause it, or stop it. So stop with the lies.

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