Thursday, April 17, 2014

UN Panel Looks to Renewables as the Key to Stabilizing Climate

Wind turbines stand behind a solar power park in Germany, which was an early leader in renewable energy investment. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
The 2,000-page study of how to head off climate change, released in Berlin on Sunday, calls for a tripling of the share of global energy generated by low-carbon energy sources.  Electricity generation will have to go from its current 30 percent use of low-carbon sources to 80 percent by 2050, the report says.  And with today’s main low-carbon sources — nuclear and hydropower — unlikely to grow much, that requires a vastly bigger plug-in to the newcomers, wind and solar. 

Only that way, says the IPCC, can the world have a better-than-even chance of keeping below the two degrees of warming widely regarded as the danger level. 

Crazy?  Some believe an industrial world powered by sun and wind is an expensive green dream that is destined to fail.  But maybe not.  For one thing, the report says, prices of wind and solar energy are falling fast.  So the damaging impact of such a transformation on the global economy would be very small — provided we get moving soon.

The UNEP report says renewables are currently keeping 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, a saving of 2.4 percent.  But that, combined with big improvements to energy efficiency, may mark what some are hailing as the beginning of a decoupling of CO2 emissions from economic growth.

The evidence comes from a European study last fall, which found that global CO2 emissions growth in 2012 fell to 1.4 percent, compared with 3.5 percent growth in economic activity. After allowing for the leap year, the figure was adjusted to 1.1 percent. The trend was observed in each of the world’s three largest economies. Helped by shale gas replacing coal, the U.S. cut emissions by 4 percent, despite an economy growing by 2.8 percent. European Union emissions fell by 1.6 percent, much more than the 0.3 percent fall in GDP. Chinese emissions grew only 3 percent while its economy grew 8 percent.

UN Panel Looks to Renewables as the Key to Stabilizing Climate

No comments:

Post a Comment