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Sustainability expert lectures on solar power and climate change


The departments of economics and environmental studies hosted economist Eban Goodstein for a seminar entitled “Exploring the Solar Dominance Hypothesis: Resource Constraints and Public Policy” on Oct. 8.

Goodstein is the director of the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College. His research has been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Economist and USA Today.

Goodstein’s seminar focused on solar dominance and civic action. He stated that with the development of technology, solar power is becoming easier to produce. He predicts that the rapid production of accessible solar energy will cause a disruption in the energy market. Goldstein stated that such a disruption will require a focus on justice and civic action in order to ease the rapid energy transition. 

Goodtsein began his talk by outlining the dire future our planet faces if climate change continues apace. Rising temperatures have led to visible changes in weather patterns, such as record-breaking storms and heat. The planet recorded its highest average global temperatures from 2014 to 2016, causing the earth’s overall temperature to rise by a half degree. 

Solving climate change means that by 2030, the transition to a 100 percent renewable economy will be well underway, Goodstein said. Utilities will be using electric power from solar, wind,  hydroelectric and geothermal sources, as well as storage batteries. Transportation will have to transition rapidly towards electric vehicles.

Goodstein predicts that within the next 10 years, our society will shift to “solar dominance.” He defined solar dominance as the point at which half of all global electricity is produced through solar energy sources, and solar storage is implemented on farms, roads and homes. He also predicted that by the mid 2020s, solar energy will be cheaper than existing grid-based power. Already, the cost of producing solar energy has decreased by 10 percent in the United States. In California, residents pay 2.5 cents per kilowatt for solar power. According to National Public Radio (NPR), the average American pays about 12 cents per  kilowatt using current energy sources. If trends continue, 64 percent of power will be solar by 2030. 

Goodstein concluded by emphasizing the need for justice and action. With such rapid changes, it will be necessary for citizens to work with governments to ensure a smooth transition. He stated that one step we can all take as citizens is to advocate more for change. He encouraged audience members to take part in his climate power dialogue on April 7, 2020. The dialogue will consist of 52 simultaneous webinars in which top climate experts explain the changes needed in specific states to fight climate change.

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