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Disruptive transformation of energy, transportation and food systems can slash 90% of carbon emissions

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Source: Rethink X

WILLINGNESS OF POLICYMAKERS TO ENABLE, ACCELERATE OR DELAY THE DISRUPTIONS IS A BIG QUESTION

RethinkX projects that the collapse of incumbent carbon-intensive energy, transportation and food industries by 2035 as they are replaced by cheaper, clean disruptive technologies will enable the world to eliminate 90 percent of carbon emissions within the next 15 years, and go beyond net zero after 2040 – if we make the right societal choices. That’s according to a new report, Rethinking Climate Change: How Humanity Can Choose to Reduce Emission 90% by 2035 through the Disruption of Energy, Transportation, and Food with Existing Technologies, released by RethinkX, an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the scope, speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications for society.

“We can either accelerate the energy, transportation and food disruptions and solve the climate crisis by ushering a new era of clean prosperity, or we can waste decades and trillions of dollars propping up the incumbent system,” said Tony Seba, RethinkX co-founder. “The stakes for the planet and society are enormous. It is up to us to decide whether or not we deploy and scale these technologies rapidly enough to avoid dangerous climate change.”

By 2035, a cluster of technologies across solar, wind and batteries (SWB); electric and on-demand autonomous vehicles (A-EVs) operated under transport-as-a-service (TaaS); as well as precision fermentation and cellular agriculture (PFCA), will provide energy,transportation and food 2-10 times cheaper than the fossil fuel derived energy, combustion vehicles and livestock products they replace. Like the emergence of the Internet, these three disruptions will trigger a cascade of consequences that will transform the entire global economy, decimating trillions of dollars of investor value in existing industries, whilst creating trillions more in new business opportunities.

In the process, the new clean energy, food and transportation technologies will empower humanity to make choices allowing societies to meet their needs and prosper, while slashing up to 90 percent of global carbon emissions within just 15 years – thereby limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius as called for under the international Paris Climate Agreement.

Using well-established cost curves, the report shows how the disruptive technologies are rapidly becoming cheaper than the carbon-intensive industries in these sectors, and thus represent an overwhelming competitive threat to their economic viability. While the disruptions will therefore be driven by economics, crucial societal decisions at government, investor, business and other levels can either accelerate or delay the disruptions, with major ramifications for whether the world avoids dangerous climate change.

The report calls on policymakers to focus strategically on deployment efforts targeting the highest impact technologies in the energy, transportation and food sectors, rather than “whack-a-mole” approaches of techno-fixes (like clean coal), behavior change, or carbon taxes which only treat symptoms and cannot solve the underlying problem, and in some instances can be counter-productive.

This means that the bulk of emissions reductions can be achieved largely by removing barriers to market forces, rather than through onerous state interventions. This includes ending vertically-integrated utility monopolies in the energy sector, removing livestock farming subsidies in the food sector and eradicating regulatory hurdles to electric and autonomous vehicles.

“Giving up economic prosperity now to solve climate change has the problem backwards. It’s like trying to stop the spread of coronavirus by not breathing,” said RethinkX co-founder James Arbib. “We could end up destroying the capital needed to build out the new energy, transportation, and food systems, which would protect the very incumbent carbon-intensive industries we need to replace. The focus should be on enabling the disruptions that are best poised to transform these three sectors currently responsible for over 90 percent of emissions.”

The report highlights how technological disruptions over the course of history – including automobiles, digital cameras and smartphones – have happened quickly and exponentially, making legacy technologies obsolete within 10 to 15 years. Policymakers and investors must therefore embrace a disruption mindset to understand the pace and scale of change over the next decade, and make optimal decisions about how to deploy public and private resources to address climate change.

Societies can also choose to accelerate deployment to reach net zero global emissions before 2035, going on to achieve 20 percent negative emissions by 2040 – the safest pathway for avoiding climate risks, and the fastest for achieving the maximum benefits of the new clean energy, transportation and food system.

However, if societies choose instead to protect incumbent fossil fuel firms, utility monopolies and the livestock sector, global emissions would rise rapidly for another five years leading global temperatures to exceed the 2 degrees pathway, placing humanity within the climate danger zone.

“Although these disruptions are ultimately inevitable due to economic forces, how slow or fast these technologies scale globally falls largely on policymakers and their willingness to act quickly – or not,” added Adam Dorr, research fellow at RethinkX. “Societal choices matter, and technology alone is not enough to achieve net zero emissions and avoid the risk of dangerous climate change.”

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