The Tipping Point in the Transition to Renewable Energy is Here Now!

Bill Maclay on March 28, 2016

Al Gore’s recent TED Talk, The Case for Optimism on Climate Change, is a true game changer. It is likely to have an impact as great as, or greater than, An Inconvenient Truth.

Three Simple Questions:

Al Gore asks three simple questions about carbon and climate change: Do we have to change? Can we change? Will we change?

Not surprisingly he answers yes to all three questions. However, what is remarkable is his thorough, deep, holistic, and grounded response in a brief yet impeccably documented, inspiring talk. The presentation left me with great optimism that we are already on the path to success and that we will continue in that direction.

He begins with disturbing evidence which articulates the extraordinary magnitude of our climate change problem and the deepening impacts of our continued fossil fuel consumption. While not surprising to most, it does demonstrate the necessity and urgency for action. Climate change and its impacts are happening faster and with more serious consequences than anyone had predicted.

In answering the question: Will we change? Gore has the shortest and clearest summary of how the revolutionary and mind boggling transition to renewable energy is already happening—we are beyond the tipping point. The closing of fossil fuel power plants, the incredibly rapid decrease in the cost of solar and wind, the beginning of rapid decreases in battery storage costs, and the substantial growth of renewables in meeting demand for new generating capacity, all indicate this. The simple bottom line is that renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels—even without considering the huge environmental cost of fossil fuels or the 40 times greater subsidies for fossil fuels.

Similarly, in our work as architects, and as we have documented in our book, The New Net Zero, we are finding that we are at the tipping point where renewable buildings are less expensive than fossil fuel buildings to own and operate. It is a remarkable game changer at a more mundane level since buildings are the cause of about 40% of all carbon emissions on the planet. Buildings are a critical arena for change if we are going to solve carbon emissions and associated global climate change. Additionally, net zero and net positive energy buildings are healthier, more durable, more beautiful, and generally nicer to be in than fossil fuel buildings.

Lastly, Al Gore shows how change typically happens where it is very slow at first and then viral—a tipping point is reached and the world changes. This has happened in the past with technology such as automobiles, cell phones, the internet, computers, and most other major changes, including past energy transitions. He quotes a great poet of the 20th century, Wallace Stevens: “After the final ‘no,’ there comes a ‘yes,’ and on that ‘yes’, the future world depends.” Finally, he reminds us of the victories in civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and other successful movements that seemed impossible when they began, but with passionate leaders, integrity and strong momentum, changed. The change necessary to positively impact climate change is the only moral and ethical choice we have and Gore believes that we will win.

You can see this inspiring presentation at:

Post written Bill Maclay on March 28, 2016 in Behavior change,Buildings & Environment,Carbon footprint,Change communications,Energy efficiency,Renewable energy

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