Renewable energy can conquer global warming March 29, 2007Posted by Andreas in Environment, Nuclear Power, renewable energy, Sustainable Living.
Engage the pro-atomic energy community in a keyboard battle (as I have done in recent times) and in no time at all they will tell you that nuclear power provides 70% of France’s electricity, that renewable energy sources are immature, unreliable and expensive and that their supporters are unscientific smelly hippies who don’t know what they’re talking about and whose sources are dubious at best.
They will not tell you that Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, is in the process of phasing out atomic power entirely and they will not tell you that there have been numerous scientific studies showing that currently available renewable energy technologies in conjunction with improved energy efficiency are capable of reducing global CO2 emissions enough to keep global warming and climate change under control while allowing for continued economic and population growth. And all of it without the help (sic) of nuclear power.
Atomic energy generation has some very major unresolved environmental and socio-economic problems (including long-lived radioactive waste, the danger of environmental contamination and atomic weapons proliferation), so surely if the job can be done without it, plain common sense should dictate that we do.
Below, I’ve summarised a number of extremely thorough international scientific reports from reputable institutions and individuals that support the claims above (I’ve provided links to the reports themselves, but be aware that some of the pdf files are rather bulky).
A 2004 study by the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (“Steps towards a sustainable development”) showed that simply by improving energy conservation and energy efficiency in a technologically feasible manner, the per capita energy demand of Switzerland could be reduced by two thirds while simultaneously increasing energy services by two thirds by 2050. In the US, it is estimated that energy demand could be reduced to one sixth of current use simply through more efficient technologies.
A 164-page study entitled “A Clean Energy Future for Australia” published in 2004 by WWF Australia and other members of the Clean Energy Future Group explores how Australia can cut its CO2 emissions by 50% by 2040 through a combination of existing renewable energy technologies and improved energy efficiency while taking into account economic and population growth.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Delaware and Stanford University found that
The wind resource off the Mid-Atlantic coast could supply the energy needs of nine states from Massachusetts to North Carolina, plus the District of Columbia–with enough left over to support a 50 percent increase in future energy demand [...]
and Gar Lipow showed that the USA could replace all of its non-hydro power plants with wind generators and electricity storage and still lower its overall electricity bill.
In January of this year, the American Solar Energy Society, with the backing of amongst others NASA’s chief climate change scientist, Dr. James Hansen, released a report entitled “Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.”. This detailed study reveals that most, if not all, US CO2 emission reductions needed to keep the global average temperature from rising more than 1oC can come from energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal) without requiring any new nuclear power plants.
A 2003 study into the employment potential of renewable energy in South Africa (which is summarised here) found that electricity generation from renewable resources (solar, wind, biomass, landfills) would create many more jobs than conventional technologies (coal, gas, nuclear including PBMR).
The joint European Renewable Energy Council – Greenpeace report “Energy [R]evolution – a sustainable world energy outlook” concludes that
Renewable energy, combined with efficiencies from the ‘smart use’ of energy, can deliver half of the world’s energy needs by 2050 [...] The report [...] provides a practical blueprint for how to cut global CO2 emissions by almost 50% within the next 43 years, whilst providing a secure and affordable energy supply and, critically, maintaining steady worldwide economic development. Notably, the plan takes into account rapid economic growth areas such as China, India and Africa [...]
This is accomplished using only mature, proven and sustainable technologies, while simultaneously phasing out nuclear energy and continuously reducing fossil fuel consumption.
South Africa with its long coastline, strong winds and long hours of sunshine has massive renewable energy resources. If countries like Switzerland, Australia and Germany can overcome the energy and global warming crisis, then why can’t we?