BERLIN, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A new Greenpeace study on climate change calls for an immediate global push of renewable energy sources to avoid catastrophic effects of climate change.
The report "energy (r)evolution," compiled by Greenpeace, top scientists from around the world, and the European Renewable Energy Council, an industry group, was launched Thursday in 22 countries. It urges the world's governments to act fast if the average temperature increase compared to the Earth's 1990 value is to be kept below 3.6 degrees, the cap above which "catastrophic" effects of global warming would devastate the globe.
Together with energy-efficiency measures, renewable energy sources are able to account for half of the world's total energy needs, the report says. That would also result in a bisection of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, which are widely believed to cause global warming, and prevent its catastrophic effects.
"Renewable energy sources will become much cheaper, and fossil fuel sources more expensive," Germany's EREC head Oliver Schaefer said Thursday at the report's launch in Berlin. "That's a fact."
The study was launched a week before a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due, and will likely hand a hefty wake-up call to the world, the head of the panel, Rajendra Pachauri, said recently. The current global warming stands at roughly 1.4 degrees, but observers say the IPCC report will publish more dramatic numbers.
"Climate change is coming faster than expected," Joerg Feddern, a Greenpeace energy expert, said Thursday. "Time is running out -- we have to act now."
Pachauri wrote the foreword to the Greenpeace report, which he praised as providing "stimulating analysis on future scenarios of energy use."
The report presents an alternative outlook than the business-as-usual scenario from the Paris-based International Energy Agency, which expects a doubling of global energy demand by 2050. Eighty percent of that demand would be met by fossil fuels, meaning that the amount of CO2 would also double -- the 3.6 degree-limit could not be reached.
The report instead offered a "road map" out of the problem, Greenpeace said. First, energy efficiency measures needed to be pushed: Cars made from lighter materials could reduce energy consumption by 24 percent. In Germany, average car fleet fuel consumption is at roughly 2 gallons per 60 miles -- "it's no problem to halve that by 2020," Feddern said.
Better insulation standards for houses could save 13 percent, while the industry could cut consumption by 11 percent by using more efficient machinery. Another 5 percent could be saved by changing old lights to more efficient bulbs.
That way, the energy (r)evolution scenario would reduce primary energy demand from the current 435,000 Peta Joules per year to 422,000 Peta Joules in 2050, while under the IEA's reference scenario, the amount of energy consumed would nearly double.
The report found that 50 percent of that reduced primary energy demand in 2050 can be met with renewable energy sources, mainly by pushing biomass, but also solar, wind and hydro energy. Natural gas would become the dominant fossil fuel source, as it produces significantly less CO2 emissions than coal, an energy source to be phased out.
Because of problems with end storage and due to Greenpeace's traditional opposition against the energy source, nuclear energy, while producing no greenhouse gas emissions, is also to be phased out.
Oil is to be used only in the transportation sector, as the study does not expect biofuels to be fully perfected by then.
Experts agreed that to make the scenario come true, concrete political measures had to be taken.
First of all, Schaefer said, the world's governments had to formulate "binding worldwide targets for the share of renewable energy sources," in a country's energy mix. As of now, however, it doesn't look that good for such plans, as only very few governments are willing to go down that road.
Nuclear and fossil fuel energy subsidies, which the United Nations estimates at over $320 billion, are to be abolished or at least significantly reduced, Schaefer said, while the world's greenhouse gas emitters are should be held accountable for their dirty outpourings: Companies that blow CO2 into the atmosphere would have to pay a tax based on the level of emissions, that way guaranteeing governments additional means of income while protecting the environment.
All in all, the scenario is economically viable, the report says. The study expects a ton of CO2 in 2050 to cost $50, as opposed to the current $4,50. Oil, now at roughly $55, in 2050 will cost $100, the study forecasts.
Based on these numbers, the energy (r)evolution model is even cheaper than the business-as-usual scenario by the IEA. While the Paris-based organization expects energy costs to quadruple in 2050, the Greenpeace scenario would only triple costs.
Saving the world while saving money -- it almost seems too good to be true. Yet Schaefer backs that vision.
"This report is not based on fantasies," Schaefer said. "There are no technical or economical barriers that would stop this change. It's only a question of political will."
(comments to email@example.com)