A study from Columbia Climate School calculated the fossil fuel usage of building renewable infrastructure and found that, if installed quickly, future expansion can be powered by lower-carbon forms of energy.

The researchers looked the cost of the green transition in greenhouse gas emissions rather than monetary expenditure.

“The message is that it is going to take energy to rebuild the global energy system, and we need to account for that,” said lead author Corey Lesk. “Any way you do it, it’s not negligible. But the more you can initially bring on renewables, the more you can power the transition with renewables.”

The researchers calculated the possible emissions produced by energy use in mining, manufacturing, transport, construction and other activities needed to create massive farms of solar panels and wind turbines, along with more limited infrastructure for geothermal and other energy sources.

Previous studies have projected that the necessary...