A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says humanity will have to at least treble its output of clean energy by 2050, to have a decent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
Low-carbon energy sources currently account for about 30% of the world’s electricity, mostly hydroelectric and nuclear power. With the help of wind power, exponentially growing solar power, and other forms of clean energy, that 30% share must rise to 80% by 2050.
Despite the huge challenge ahead for the world, the report points out that since 2007 many renewable energy technologies have substantially advanced, both in terms of cost and performance, making the task easier. The report also mentions nuclear power as one of the low-carbon technologies needed, but acknowledges its significant decline since 1993, and concerns about safety and cost.
The IPCC also addresses the potential for carbon-capture technologies, but says they have not yet been applied on a large, commercial scale. The report says the widespread use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) will probably be needed to prevent global warming from rising by more than the 2 degrees Celsius already agreed to by governments.
Following more than 20 years of largely fruitless UN climate talks by governments, the urgency to act has grown substantially, and the new report reflects this. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions climbed faster between 2000 and 2010 than they did in each of the previous three decades. However, on a brighter note, emissions have not be rising as fast since 2010.
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