Developing efficient, sustainable energy systems based on renewable energy and smart grid technology is not only an environmental necessity: it is a social and economic imperative. We rely on fossil fuels for more than 85 per cent of all energy we use and pay a high price for our dependency, on all fronts. An overhaul of the way we produce, transport, store, and consume energy is underway and an improved energy world is emerging, slowly. Intelligent policies based on concise roadmaps will get us there faster.
People around the world are already suffering from the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, storms, droughts, and floods – these natural processes, artificially intensified by global warming, will affect agriculture, fishing, transportation, and tourism to an ever greater degree. Changing ecosystems and landscapes, biodiversity losses, the surge of tropical diseases, and food and water shortages will lead to economic and welfare losses on an unprecedented scale should climate change remain largely unabated as it is today.
The cost of fossil fuels is unjustifiable
Even if we take climate change, which has been called this century’s greatest challenge, off the table for a moment, transitioning our energy systems is a socioeconomic imperative. For a host of reasons, our reliance on fossil fuels comes at an unjustifiably high cost to our economies. First, the burning of coal and petroleum pollutes our air and water. China, for example, estimates that addressing its pollution and pollution-related health problems swallows up to 10 per cent of its total annual GDP. Imagine if the country could put these huge resources into addressing pressing social needs!