Climate change could result in destruction worse than all wars in history combined, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Wednesday.
During a presentation at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Paris, Musk said the adoption of sustainable energy over fossil fuels is ultimately inevitable because eventually humans will run out of the latter.
However, he said one of two things will happen if governments continue to rely on fossil fuels.
“If we wait and delay the change, the best case is simply delaying the inevitable transition from sustainable energy. This is the best case if we don’t take action now,” he said.
“The worst case, however, is more displacement and destruction than all the wars in history combined. These are the best and worst case scenarios. This is why I call it the dumbest experiment in history,” he said.
If no action is taken, it’s possible as much as 5-10% of the Earth’s landmass could be absorbed by water, Musk said. This may not sound like a lot, but about one-third of humanity, or more than two billion people, live within 60 miles of the coastline and in low-lying countries.
“We would be talking about maybe two billion people being displaced and their homes being destroyed and their countries being gone. So I think we should take action,” he said.
Musk’s comments come at a time when global leaders are meeting in Paris for the World Climate Change Conference to try and come to a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Musk said he is hopeful the international governments will come to an agreement, and that addressing climate change is fundamentally a government issue.
The reason the transition to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal has progressed so slowly is because there is a hidden subsidy on all carbon producing activity, Musk said. But if governments propose a carbon tax, there’s a chance the damage from climate change can be contained.
“There needs to be a clear message from government in this regard. Because the fundamental problem is the rules today incent people to create carbon. This is madness. Whatever you incent, will happen. That is why we are seeing very little effect thus far,” he said.
“The government is the setter of rules, the government decides what rules the companies play by. And if we currently have a system that massively incent bad behavior.”
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