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I met a lot of bold people today, but Chip Comins is so bold he may as well be drawn in magic marker. The man does not mince words. As the chairman and CEO at the American Renewable Energy Institute (AREI), this is what Mr. Comins said when I asked if it was realistic to think the US energy infrastructure can be replaced with 100 percent renewable energy in just a few decades.

“Not only do I think it’s realistic, it’s inevitable. It’s the only way out,” said Comins. “We either do it or we die.”

Since 2004, AREI has hosted its American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY), as a way to showcase bold and innovative ideas in the renewable energy space. The AREDAY summit has served as a platform for figures in the public and private to offer thoughtful presentations and conversations on the subjects of renewable energy and socially responsible investment.

RE_festival_posterThe issue is black and white to Comins, which is why he helped produce Louie Psihoyos documentary on the planet’s upcoming and human-perpetrated mass extinction. “We either stop destroying the planet by releasing the gases into the atmosphere,” said Comins, “which is crashing the life support system of the planet, the biosphere, or we begin to implement renewable energy, sustainable technology and energy efficient strategy at the speed and scale necessary to solve the problem.”

By refusing that call, the planet’s leaders are like addicts that don’t want to admit they have a problem, he added. Not that Comins has much faith in those leaders.

“I think the policymakers are by and large bought and sold,” he said, “and that we are going to have to let the free market do what it was designed to do. The market forces will drive the solution. That will happen independently of all government regulation, legislation and policy. Now that said, it doesn’t hurt to have a tax credit for solar or wind.”

On Tuesday night, AREI is partnering with the Pope to light up the Vatican. The event will be similar to the “Projecting Change” display that covered the east side of the Empire State Building earlier this year, in which Psihoyos’ Oceanic Preservation Society projected massive images and video of endangered species across the face of the Empire State Building. The Vatican projection will be performed in solidarity with the Pope’s passionate encyclical on climate change

“Extinction is happening now,” said Comins. “We’re collapsing the biosphere now. When are people going to say ‘enough?’”

More tales from the World Climate Summit:

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