New IPCC report on climate change suggests solutions: Are renewable energy sources up to the task?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their newest climate report, calling for a dramatic increase in the use of renewable energy sources. For a century, the world - especially the United States - has depended heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Release of carbon from burning of fuels contributes to global climate change.
The report stated human influence on global warming is "clear" and blames that influence on fossil fuels. IPCC authors recommended humans worldwide triple or quadruple their use of renewable energy to combat global warming.
"The only safe path forward is to arrive at a carbon neutral world in the second half of this century. We cannot play a waiting game where we bet on future technological miracles to emerge and save the day - and why would we," Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said [pdf] in a press release announcing the report.
Renewable energies have lately experienced great increase in efficiency and drop in prices, but are green energy sources ready to take over from fossil fuels?
A solar cell with an efficiency of 14 percent was developed in 1960 by Hoffman Electronics. In 1985, researchers at the University of New South Wales developed the world's first solar cell capable of converting 20 percent of the sunlight that struck it into electricity. In 2007 and 2008, isolated cases of cells achieving 40 percent efficiency were reported, but no experiment was commercially viable. Experimental models today reach around 44 to 45 percent efficiency.
The best commercial cells now available, deliver a little over 30 percent, just twice as efficient as technology 50 years ago. Without a significant jump in efficiencies over the coming decades, it would be necessary to nearly triple the number of solar panels currently installed worldwide.
Around 16.7 percent of world energy use in 2010 was provided by renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. Fossil fuels account for 80.6 percent of global energy use. The remainder is produced from nuclear power. Even tripling the contribution of renewable energy to global demand will mean humans will produce one-half of our energy from renewable sources. More solar panels have been installed around the United States over the last 18 months than in 30 years previously, so this goal might not be out of reach. A similar "golden age" is affecting wind power, as well.
"The United States led the world in new installations for the third year in a row.. increasing cumulative installed capacity by 45 percent... Wind power represented 30 percent of new U.S. capacity additions last year, compared with one percent of the total just five years earlier," The WorldWatch Institute, an environmental advocacy group, wrote.
The IPSS will host a meeting of international leaders in Paris in 2015, aimed at adopting policies in various nations to help combat global climate change.