UN report urges switch to cleaner fuels to combat climate change

A comprehensive report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Sunday stressed the need to turn to cleaner sources of energy to combat climate change.

With 95 percent certainty, the report found that human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, is the primary cause of rising temperatures since the 1950’s. The report is not the result of a single study, but rather a synthesis of over 30,000 studies – involving over 3,000 authors, 800 scientists, and 80 countries.

Authors of the report stated that global greenhouse gases must be halved over the next 25 years in order to avoid temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Many scientists assert that increasing global average temperatures by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit would cause dramatic environmental and economic damage.

The report identifies the energy sector as one industry with significant need for emission reductions, specifically mentioning that switching to wind energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, wind energy's potential to dramatically reduce carbon emissions has long been studied and documented. A draft report by the U.S. Department of Energy found that with smart policy, wind power can provide 20 percent of the nation’s power by 2030, which could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 825 million metric tons.  A recent report by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace similarly found that wind power could supply 20 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2030, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by almost 1.7 billion tons.

If climate change continues unchecked, the IPCC report warns that food supply and human health will be negatively impacted within the next four decades. Earlier this year, a bipartisan report found that climate change could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars. The expected economic costs of climate change include about $35 billion annually in property losses caused by hurricanes and coastal storms, and about $12 billion in increased air conditioning costs.

Several studies have found that wind energy offers an affordable solution to climate change. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) found that adding 9,400 MW of wind capacity would not only prevent 17.6 million tons of CO2 emissions, but also reduce the cost of energy for consumers.

As IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri explained, “We have the means to limit climate change. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

The report’s findings are not intended to rest on a shelf, but to inform next month’s U.N. climate negotiations in Lima, Peru. Next year, the conference’s negotiations will culminate in a Paris summit to adopt a global agreement combating climate change. Renewable energy sources such as wind are certain to play a critical role in the proposed solutions.

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