Leading up to last night’s debut of Leonardo DiCaprio’s National Geographic documentary Before The Flood, Elon Musk spoke to the Hollywood star on the topic of climate change during a personal tour of the Tesla Gigafactory. “The fossil fuel industry is the biggest industry in the world,” Musk told DiCaprio. “They have more money and more influence than any other sector. The more that there can be a sort of popular uprising against that, the better, but I think the scientific fact of the matter is we are unavoidably headed towards some level of harm.”
It’s no secret that Musk’s overarching goal is to save the world from the damage excess carbon emissions will cause if allowed to grow unchecked, but he is not overly optimistic his mission will succeed. His vision of making humans a multi-planetary species serves as a refuge and back up plan if and when humanity destroys its ancestral home.
Musk tells his A-list guest that the Gigafactory is designed to do more than just manufacture batteries. It is intended to serve as a template for how others could contribute to converting the entire world to clean, renewable solar power. Not only is the factory making batteries to store solar energy for use later, it is designed to be a net zero and zero emissions operation. “The thing that’s really going to make a difference is if companies that are much bigger than Tesla do the same thing. If the big industrial companies in China and the U.S. and Europe, the big car companies, if they also do this, then collectively we an accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.”
One aspect of electrical storage that Musk finds especially appealing, is the ability to bring electrical power to places that have no access to an established energy grid. He envisions villages in the developing world that are not yet connected to the grid being able to jump straight to a solar and battery system. “Batteries are critical to a sustainable energy future”, says Musk. “The advantage of solar and a batteries is that you can avoid building electricity plants at all, so you can be a remote village and have solar panels that charge a batter pack that supplies power to the whole village, without ever having to run thousands of miles of high voltage cables all over the place.”
Perhaps the most telling statement that speaks to humanities ability to transition the entire world to sustainable energy, is when Musk says this is all achievable. “We actually did the calculations to figure out what it would take to transition the whole world to sustainable energy. You’d need 100 Gigafactories,” he tells DiCaprio. He has no intention of building all those factories himself. But by showing others how it can be done, he hopes to encourage others to follow the trail he blazed.
Watch the segment from Before The Flood with DiCaprio and Musk below.
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