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The world could phase out fossil fuels within a decade, according to a new study.
Writing in the journal Energy Research & Social Science, Benjamin Sovacool, Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, says the world could wean itself off the polluting fuels quickly, given a “collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-scalar effort.”
“Moving to a new, cleaner energy system would require significant shifts in technology, political regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, and the behavior of users and adopters,” he said. “Left to evolve by itself – as it has largely been in the past – this can indeed take many decades. A lot of stars have to align all at once.”
He added that the past may offer some clues about how to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner, sustainable forms of energy.
For example, for Europe to move from wood to coal took between 96 and 160 years, but electricity only took 47 to 69 years to be mainstream.
Transitioning to cleaner energies could be expedited by several factors, he said, citing “the scarcity of resources, the threat of climate change and vastly improved technological learning and innovation.”
In the study, some of the quicker transitions are listed as potential road maps.
For example, in Ontario, Canada, coal was replaced from 2003 to 2014. In Indonesia, two-thirds of the population shifted from kerosene stoves to LPG stoves in just three years.
Between 1970 and 1982, France went from deriving 4 percent of its electricity from nuclear power to 40 percent.
All of these, Sovacool says, were done with “strong government intervention coupled with shifts in consumer behavior.”
“The mainstream view of energy transitions as long, protracted affairs, often taking decades or centuries to occur, is not always supported by the evidence,” he said.