On a global scale, shifting to a clean energy system that does not rely on fossil fuels is a difficult task. People have been arguing about it for years. Detractors often look to the past and point out how long it took to switch from wood to coal, or to get electricity up and running throughout the world.
Switching from wood to coal took between 96 and 160 years, which is a time frame that many scientists think is too long to effectively slow down global warming.
According to a new study by Professor Benjamin Sovacool of the University of Sussex, we could transition out of fossil fuels in about a decade. His argument is based on comparing those older transitions to newer, smaller scale transitions.
For example, two-thirds of Indonesia was switched from kerosene to LPG stoves in only three years, while France saw electricity produced by nuclear power rise from 4% in 1970 to 40% in 1982.
In these cases, and others, the key is government involvement and a stated goal of transitioning energy models. The examples of coal or electricity were haphazard, with the adaptation of those systems being left largely to chance, to people deciding to engage with them.
By setting out with a goal of converting to a carbon neutral system like solar power, it would be much easier to shift, since there would be direction and goals to work towards. There would also be greater support for research into such technology, which would help immensely.
Professor Sovacool also notes that our current technology is far more advanced that it was when electricity was new, or even in the 1970s for that matter. Figuring out how to make something like solar power work, and then how to implement it, would be a lot easier to pull off.