Sustainable energy and technology can curb climate change and meet projected growth in demand for energy but only if key decisions are made within the next five years, according to a new WWF report. Climate Solutions: WWF’s vision for 2050 concludes that sustainable technologies can meet global projected energy demand while avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change. But it warns that the governmental policies needed to propel this transition are not now in place, or even in prospect in most cases.
“This report says that we can breathe a sigh of relief: it’s not too late to save ourselves and our children from the worst ravages of climate change while still meeting the demand for energy,” said Richard Mott, Vice President for International Policy at World Wildlife Fund. “But the report also warns that this opportunity is fleeting. Any delay and our choices become both more difficult and much more expensive.”
The study showed with a high degree of probability (greater than 90 percent) that known energy sources and proven technologies could be harnessed between now and 2050 to meet a projected doubling in global demand for energy while at the same time achieving the necessary significant drop (about 60-80 percent) in carbon dioxide emissions needed to prevent dangerous climate change.
The report identifies six key solutions:
- Improving energy efficiency
- Stopping forest loss
- Accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies
- Developing flexible fuels
- Replacing high-carbon coal with low-carbon gas
- Equipping fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and storage technology
“The WWF study provides a much needed integration of climate change mitigation within a comprehensive framework of environmental stewardship,” said Princeton University Professor Robert Socolow. He and Professor Stephen Pacala developed the climate stabilization “wedges” adapted by the WWF study.
While the study shows that a solution to the current climate crisis is within reach, the governmental actions and economic policies needed to drive the switch to sustainable technologies may well be years away based on current progress. In five years, it may be too late to avert a breach of the 2 degree C threshold for avoiding dangerous climate change. Socially disruptive options may be forced upon us or we will face interventions with significant impacts on the global economy.
“Those in power today have a unique opportunity, a duty, to avert a catastrophe,” continued Mott. “Generations to come will face dire consequences if our leaders fail to act within the next five years.”
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