A new report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) suggests that renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades – but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power.
The 1,000-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) marks the first time the IPCC has examined low-carbon energy in-depth, and the first interim report since the body’s comprehensive 2007 review of the science of climate change.
The IPCC ,(made up of the world’s leading climate scientists convened by the United Nations), has said that if the full range of renewable technologies were deployed, the World could keep greenhouse gas concentrations to less than 450 parts per million – the level scientists have predicted will be the limit of safety beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible.
Investing in renewables to the extent needed would they believe cost only about 1% of global GDP annually. Renewable energy is already growing fast – of the 300 gigawatts of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009, about 140GW came from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power.
The IPCC report shows overwhelming scientific evidence that renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries, where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy sources. Governments have to kick-start the energy revolution by implementing renewable energy laws across the globe.
On the run up to the next major climate conference, COP17 in South Africa in December, the onus is clearly on governments to step up to the mark.
Although the authors are optimistic about the future of renewable energy, they note that many forms of the technology are still more expensive than fossil fuels, and find that the production of renewable energy will have to increase by as much as 20 times in order to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050, the scientists predict.
Investing in renewables can also help poor countries to develop, particularly where large numbers of people lack access to an electricity grid.
About 13% of the world’s energy came from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built up their capacity since then, with China leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at present is burning biomass (about 10% of the total global energy supply), which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposits of soot that accelerate global warming, and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harms health.
So if we adopt the proposals we could solve our energy issues long-term – time to take this seriously at Government level!