Fast Company's Adele Peters reports that according to a new study from the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University, the world could be powered solely by wind, water, and sunlight in just a few decades.
The program's director, Mark Z. Jacobson, collaborated with University of California colleagues to analyze energy roadmaps for 139 countries, crunching numbers to determine how much energy each country would need by 2050 (including electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry, and agriculture). The researchers then calculated how those needs could be covered by renewable energy, and how much the process would cost. The shift could create 20 million more jobs than those lost in the fossil fuel industry, and energy prices would stabilize because renewables don't utilize a commodity fuel.
The study lays out a timeline of how the shift could happen. By 2020, countries would stop building new coal, natural gas, or nuclear plants (or biomass, which the researchers don't consider a good alternative). New home appliances like stoves and heaters would be electric, not gas. By 2025, new cargo ships, trains, and buses would be electrified. Cars and trucks would get there by 2030. Eventually, by 2050, the transition would be complete.