The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes its first-ever comprehensive review of low-carbon energy sources and potential, a 900-page "Bible" on renewable energy.
Word snuck out last week that the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had undertaken a massive, unprecedented review of renewable energy studies and potential. The IPCC reviewed 164 renewable energy scenarios and written up a 900-page report on this, the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, which was published today, May 9, in Abu Dhabi (UAE), the home of the new International Renewable Energy Agency.
Some of the key findings are:
- technically, renewable energy could easily supply all of the world's energy needs (and much more) by 2050.
- politically, up to 77% of global electricity demand could be satisfied by power from renewable energy sources by 2050.
- costs of renewable energy are projected to decrease significantly in coming years and significant deployment is projected.
- governments need to pursue the more aggressive policies and growth path in order to keep greenhouse gas concentrations below 450 parts per million, a critical necessity according to climatologists.
The report, unfortunately, left out a relatively new WWF report, The Energy Report, which detailed a plan for a 100% renewable energy future by 2050 -- the report was too new to be included in the review. Thus, it discounted what's possible. Additionally, it did not lay out a clear plan for how to go about achieving the cleanest energy future. “IPCC delivers a landmark report that shows the rapid growth, low-cost potential for renewable energy – but unfortunately does not endorse a 100% renewable energy pathway until 2050,” said Dr. Stephan Singer, Director for Global Energy Policy for WWF International.
Nonetheless, this is a groundbreaking, influential report that shows the world the a renewable energy future is ours if we take the appropriate steps.
Clean Energy Future Not Just about Climate Change
The IPCC report clearly shows that beyond the clear climate benefits of a renewable energy future, renewables offer many other benefits and advantages over fossil fuels and nuclear energy, such as:
- health benefits
- security of energy supply
- creation of jobs and economic stimulus
- they can provide electricity to over 2 billion people who currently don't have electricity or have very erratic electricity access
Strengths and Weaknesses of 30-Page Summary for Policy Makers
All IPCC reports include a summary for policy makers that must be agreed to line by line and word by word by every member country, quite a task. This was completed in the very early morning on May 9 after several days of learning about and discussing the report.
There are weaknesses of such a process -- it generally weakens the statements and recommendations of the full report. “Unfortunately, the Summary for Policy Makers is only a feeble outline and does not in the least match the high quality of the full report,” said Dr. Singer. “One needs to turn to the full report to understand the massive job the IPCC has managed to achieve.”
On the other hand, it binds all governments and report scientists to the final, published findings. This strengthens their reputability.
Image Credit: TheFutureIsUnwritten via flickr/CC license