We Want 100% Clean Energy by 2050
We are facing a climate crisis. We need to act boldly and urgently to keep our children safe.
It’s time for our leaders to set a goal: Eliminate the pollution that is causing climate change by 2050. That means 100% clean energy, across the entire economy.
It’s ambitious, but we can do it. And for our kids, we have to do it.
100% Clean Energy? You mean, the way I get my electricity is polluting the air —but we can clean it up?
Yes, that’s right. Unless you’re using renewable or nuclear or hydro energy only, your household electricity produces carbon pollution that contributes to climate change.
But 100% Clean isn’t just about household electricity. We are demanding 100% clean energy, everywhere. To fight climate change, we need 100% clean energy across our entire economy—meaning our cars and trucks won’t pollute, and neither will the way we raise our food, or the way we build the places in which we work and live. It means our industries and infrastructure get fully modernized, too.
What exactly is clean energy?
Wow! That seems like a huge deal!
It is very ambitious. There’s a lot to do in the next thirty years. And that means there is a huge amount to do in the next five to ten years. This means we have to set clear interim goals, and enforce them.
We can’t wait a single minute to get going on this plan. We have to set targets for every five to ten years, starting now. That’s the main point. We have waited long enough. We must start cutting climate pollution right away.
The goal – 100% Clean Energy by 2050 — is based on a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), produced by the world’s leading climate scientists. It states the world must cut climate pollution 45% by 2030, and completely stop climate pollution by 2050, in order to have a chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change.
We are entering a defining decade, a turning point. Our goals now will set us up for the rest of our children’s lives. Scientists are warning us—and we are seeing it every day: We are facing a climate crisis that is threatening our health, our families, our farms, our cities, our futures. We must be ambitious.
Don’t forget—we’ve made huge energy transitions before. Remember whale oil? The transition from blubber to fossil fuels was enormously disruptive of all parts of the economy—and we came out better. (So did the whales.) Similarly, coal use is plummeting because of natural gas and renewable energy. Energy is just like communications—there was a time when no one could have imagined we would be talking to each other on a device smaller than your hand.
Is this even doable? Do we have the tools to change our entire economy in such a big way?
Yes, we do. That’s why this goal is so exciting. We know so much about so many of the different pieces of this puzzle:
- How to produce energy from wind and sun;
- How to save energy, through simple steps like better insulation and lighting in our buildings;
- How to reduce transportation pollution;
- How to create laws and make rules at the local, state, and national level that ensure we are on target.
Right now, massive subsidies and tax breaks prop up the fossil fuel industry, and unfairly penalize renewable energy. The subsidies to renewable energy are minuscule by comparison to what we pay to prop up the fossil fuel industry; we spend ten times more on fossil fuel breaks than we do on education! Meanwhile, the costs of those subsidies are borne by our children, our elders, and communities near the sources of pollution. It’s simply not fair, and it has to stop.
We can make sure our infrastructure is climate-smart and resilient – while protecting vulnerable populations who bear the brunt of climate impacts, and who should not shoulder the costs of cleaning it up.
We know how to do so much—and every year we learn more about how to do it all better and cheaper. Many states have made their own commitments to reducing greenhouse gases – CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NJ, NM, NV, NY, NC, OR, PA, RI, VT, VA, WA, WI along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
It is now a matter of willpower and working together to make it happen across the country.
This is ambitious and sounds good, but is it going to cost an arm and a leg?
We do need to make a significant investment in a large transition. But it is the sort of investment that is going to pay us back enormous dividends.
And the cost of inaction is enormous—in the form of climate disaster, the health and safety of our families, the security of our food, the security of our homes and lands. 100% Clean Energy by 2050 is going to give us climate solutions that will also clean up the air our families breathe. Given that more than 40% of Americans live in counties where the air is unhealthy to breathe, this is truly priceless. Our investment in a clean energy future also means new inventions, new technologies, new leadership—and new opportunity for all. But we have to make that happen.
Can we wait for a breakthrough in technology?
We’ve done nothing but wait so far. Our emissions are on the rise. That hasn’t gotten us anywhere—in fact, it has gotten us into this state of emergency. Engineers and inventors are hard at work on innovative solutions, but we can’t leave our future to luck. And every single year that we wait, the climate disturbance gets worse—and more expensive to address. Worse, we have an Administration that has refused to take any responsibility for climate pollution—and in fact is moving us backwards by weakening or rolling back vital regulations. We must demand immediate change.
What about nuclear energy?
Nuclear power carries some large risks. When a solar panel breaks, the worst that can happen is a sunny day. When a nuclear plant breaks, it can be disastrous. However, many states already rely on a great deal of nuclear energy right now—and have been doing so for decades, without terrible accidents. Nuclear plants that are up and running should continue to produce carbon-free energy. Utilities need to ensure those plants continue to be as safe, up-to-date, and reliable as possible.
What about new kinds of nuclear power?
What about natural gas?
So far the oil and gas industries are doing a terrible job of getting their pollution under control. Every stage from getting oil and gas out of the ground to the market and then to your home creates air pollution from trucks, equipment, gas leaks, venting, and flaring that impacts public health and contributes to climate change. It is outrageous that many people in the oil and gas industry are actively working to weaken and repeal regulations that protect our families and the climate—and that lessen the waste of a precious resource. And it’s not just about methane emissions — natural gas is a fossil fuel. Even if methane leaks from the oil and gas industry are fully fixed, natural gas emits carbon dioxide when burned for energy. It is not a source of climate-safe energy.
So, unless the oil and gas industry cleans up their act (quite literally), they aren’t part of a safe and clean energy future.
What about the Green New Deal? Does this 100% Clean by 2050 campaign conflict with that?
People can support them both! There is lots to love about the Green New Deal, including its beautiful and large idealism about what our society could achieve. Here is a link to the bill in its entirety; take a look for yourself and decide. Our 100% Clean Energy campaign is specific to climate pollution—it focuses on carbon emissions across every sector of our economy. And it calls for urgent action. Certainly, the Green New Deal also does exactly that—and more.
A 100% reduction in climate pollution in thirty years is very ambitious, no matter which way you cut it.
Read the full text of the Green New Deal.
I love the goal stated in this campaign. It has the urgency and scope we need. But is that all there is—a campaign?
Right now, legislators in the House of Representatives are working on a bill to turn this goal of 100% Clean Energy across the economy by 2050 into a bill. This bill can be used to get people talking about what’s needed to address the climate crisis. The current makeup of the Senate, and the fact that we have a president who denies climate change is a problem, means that we can’t get this bill passed right now. But it is going to lay the groundwork for a national commitment in the near future.
During the last presidential election debates, there wasn’t even a question about climate change. Finally, now, more people are demanding change. Something must be done to end climate pollution.
If we can’t get a law passed in this Congress to get to 100% Clean Energy by 2050, why bother to push for a bill?
The clarity of the goal – 100% Clean Energy across the entire economy by 2050 – which is based on the clarity of scientific warnings, is super important. It will be important to ask our representatives to stand up and be counted.
This goal also shines a light on the dozens of terrible things happening now, with the Trump Administration’s dangerous and foolhardy regulatory rollbacks of climate pollution. Those rollbacks are only helping put more money into the pockets of big oil and gas companies. They aren’t protecting us.
When you look at where we need to be in thirty years to avert climate disaster, 100% Clean makes it clear that cutting rules that protect us from methane emissions, or carbon emissions, or mercury protections, sends us in completely the wrong direction.
This campaign also shines light on the need for a tax overhaul: Tax subsidies and breaks now overwhelmingly favor an old industry, oil and gas development. Subsidies for renewables are minuscule by comparison.
Fossil fuel subsidies in 2015 in the US were ten times the federal spending on education. That’s backwards. We, the taxpayers who actually pay taxes, are paying for this—and that public spending could go to supporting health care, education, roads, and many more things that are better for us.
So what’s the bottom line?
There will a great deal of work to do — across the country and in every facet of our economy—to achieve these goals. But stating a goal, and honoring it, is critical to actually setting out in the right direction.
Right now, with EPA rollbacks and harmful climate pollution on the rise, we are heading towards a global emergency.
Our determination to get to 100% Clean Energy by 2050 puts us on a path to climate safety, right away.