Elon Musk says humanity is currently running 'the dumbest experiment in history'
People are running "the dumbest experiment in history" by continuing to burn fossil fuels, Elon Musk said. "The greater the change to the chemical composition of the physical, chemical makeup of the oceans and atmosphere, due to carbon emissions, the greater the long-term effect.
"Given that at some point they'll run out anyway, why run this crazy experiment to see how bad it'll be? We know it's at least some bad, and the overwhelming scientific consensus is that it'll be really bad." Musk, a renewables entreprenuer who serves as CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity, has clear reasons for saying this, yet it's hard to deny his logic.
Use of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas will end either when we run out of them or when we do enough damage to the earth that we have to stop. If you use data from oil and gas giant BP, at present rates of extraction we'll be out of oil by 2067, natural gas by 2069, and coal by 2121. It's possible that we'll discover more oil trapped in tar sands or deep under the ocean, but it just gets more expensive and riskier to extract. And we'll still run out.
What's more we don't even want to use all the fossil fuels we have. Burning nonrenewable fuels makes the atmosphere warmer, and burning coal is worse than using other energy sources. If we get to that point, the limiting factor won't be how many years of fossil fuels we have left, it will be how much more atmospheric change the planet can take. Some researchers already think we've reached the point where there's enough carbon in the atmosphere to cause catastrophic impacts to humanity.
Even in places in the US where coal provides a good proportion of electrical power, electric vehicles are still cleaner than gas-powered cars. But for true sustainability, electricity production needs to change too. In particular, countries need to stop using coal as soon as possible.
Sustainable alternatives include renewables like hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal power. Nuclear power is also far cleaner than any sort of fossil fuel energy source. Musk's comment about a dangerous experiment echos what scientists have been saying for decades.