Shift away from fossil fuels will be wrenching, risky, ‘ugly’ and ultimately necessary — author

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 2, 2014

BOSTON — Shifting the global economy from its long dependence on fossil fuels will not follow a smooth trajectory where corporations, financial markets and other stakeholders systematically and logically adjust to new realities, regulations and economic pressures.

Rather, it will be the kind of “chaotic, messy, ugly and effective” transformation that characterized almost all past market upheavals, author and climate activist Paul Gilding told several hundred climate-conscious investors gathered here this week.Gilding, former head of Greenpeace International and author of the 2011 book “The Great Disruption,” offered a sobering and at times searing critique of the coal, oil and gas industries, which he said must be effectively dismantled over the next several decades to avoid irreparable harm to the climate from greenhouse gases.”We’ve got to get away from the idea that this is going to be a gentle process,” the Australian climate activist told several hundred people gathered for the annual sustainability conference sponsored by Ceres, the 25-year-old nonprofit dedicated to promoting social and environmental causes within the business and finance sectors. “A lot of people will lose along the way,” including some of the world’s most powerful energy companies, he said.

But there will be winners, too, as financial markets respond to mounting concern about climate change and investors begin steering billions of additional dollars toward renewable energy development, energy efficiency programs, and other products and technologies to help reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted into the atmosphere.

The looming challenge for nonprofits like Ceres and its private-sector partners is finding a way to leverage a projected $36 trillion by 2050 — or roughly $1 trillion per year — that the International Energy Agency has said will be necessary to place the world’s energy economy on an environmentally sustainable path.