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Full moon over White House.

The Clean-Energy Moonshot

In 1961, JFK declared his hope that, within the decade, the US would land a person on the moon; eight years later, NASA succeeded, with far-reaching benefits. Now, leading scientists, innovators, and economists are calling for this generation's moonshot: to replace fossil fuels with clean-energy technologies within a generation.

NEW YORK – In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy stirred America and the world with these words: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Just eight years later, NASA did just that – with astounding benefits for science, technology, and the world economy. Now, a group of leading scientists, innovators, and economists has identified our era’s moonshot: to replace fossil fuels with clean-energy technologies within this generation.

Since a group of policy leaders from the United Kingdom initiated the Global Apollo Programme to Combat Climate Change earlier this year, I and many others have enthusiastically signed on. The program, named after the NASA moon mission, is built on the idea of “directed technological change.” In other words, through a conscious effort, backed by public funds, we can steer the development of the advanced technologies needed to ensure humanity’s safety and wellbeing. At the top of the list is clean energy, which will enable us to head off the global warming caused by the combustion of massive amounts of coal, oil, and gas worldwide.

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) has demonstrated that a low-carbon future is within reach, with huge benefits at a very modest cost. In the United States, for example, cutting emissions by 80% by 2050 is not only feasible; it would require added outlays of only around 1% of GDP per year. And the benefits – including a safer climate, smarter infrastructure, better vehicles, and cleaner air – would be massive.

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