Elon Musk is optimistic on climate, says decarbonization will be achieved through nuclear then solar power

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Elon Musk is optimistic on climate, says decarbonization will be achieved through nuclear then solar power
SpaceX founder Elon Musk at the company's HQ in Hawthorne, California on October 10, 2019.PHILIP PACHECO/AFP via Getty Images
  • Elon Musk said he is confident society will solve "the climate issue," it's just a question of when.
  • He predicted that solar power "will be the main long-term way that civilization is powered."
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Elon Musk is optimistic about Earth's climate future.

"We will solve the climate issue. It is just a question of when," he said in a recent interview with Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Insider's parent company, Axel Springer.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO predicted decarbonization will ultimately be achieved through solar energy. The key to this transition, according to Musk, is a technology to effectively store the sun's energy for future use.

"Obviously the sun only shines during the day, and sometimes it is very cloudy," he said. "So you need solar batteries. That will be the main long-term way that civilization is powered."

Until the shift to solar is feasible, he told Döpfner that it's essential to maintain nuclear energy plants.

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"I can't emphasize that enough," he said. "This is total madness to shut them down. I want to be clear, total madness."

Musk's comment was in reference to Germany's decision to phase out nuclear energy following the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011. Earlier this month, he called for more nuclear energy in Europe on Twitter as Russia's invasion of Ukraine underscored Germany's reliance on Russian oil.

"If you are somewhere where severe earthquakes or tsunamis occur, it is more of a question mark," Musk said earlier in the interview. "If there is no massive natural disaster risk — which Germany does not have — then there is really no danger with the nuclear power plants."

While natural disasters in Germany are "not as extreme as in other parts of the world," the country is at risk to storms, floods and earthquakes, according to the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organization in Germany.

Döpfner mentioned both wind and solar as viable alternatives to nuclear in a question to Musk. The Tesla CEO did not comment on wind in his response.

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Musk did not provide a timeline to back his climate optimism, but said in 15 years the climate issue will look "much better" from a sustainable energy standpoint. Solving the problem is "the fundamental goal of Tesla," he added.

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