Renewable energy is capable of meeting our energy requirements. To stave off the most catastrophic impacts of global warming we need a two-pronged strategy that includes energy efficiency and renewables.
Anyone who has reviewed the science of climate change realizes that global warming is caused chiefly by the burning of fossil fuels. To combat climate change we must reduce our greenhouse gases including carbon.
To stave off the most serious impacts of climate change, we must keep the earth from warming more than 2 degrees C. If the earth warms by more than 2 degrees it will cause catastrophic climate change impacts. An increase in global mean temperature of 2 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels will increase the likelihood of irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.
In 2009, the G8 countries and the Major Economies Forum agreed to that global warming should be limited to a maximum of 2 degrees C. above the pre-industrial period. At the Cancun climate negotiations in 2010, Parties to the UNFCCC agreed to the 2 degrees C. upper limit of global warming.
The Carbon level in the atmosphere is now just under 400 parts per million (ppm), to keep the earth from warming beyond 2 degrees C.we need to reduce carbon to an upper limit of 350 ppm.
How do we keep the earth from warming as our population is increasing and our energy demands are growing?
To keep the earth from warming we must rapidly move toward an economy based on renewable fuels. Their are a couple of studies which indicate that the world could rely entirely on green energy sources within 20 years if we dedicate ourselves to that course.
For more information on the potential of renewable energy to meet our energy needs see the two studies below:
1. Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A path to sustainable energy by 2030”, Scientific American, November 2009, pp 58 – 65.
2. Robert Howarth, “Preliminary assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing”, Cornell University , 1 April 2010.
To replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy will take enormous amounts of money and energy. Given enough time and will, we can replace hydrocarbons. However we do not have much time, and we do not at present have enough will.
Renewables are our only hope for the future. Even if we fail to rise to the challenge and society collapses, we will revert to smaller, more independent communities, where we will be forced to use small scale renewable power. One way or another, renewable energy is our future.