Renewables Are the Solution to Global Climate Change

Global climate change can be significantly slowed with the proper economic incentives and technological developments, according to presenters at the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) conference in Denver, Colorado. The presenters spoke Tuesday morning, highlighting the current impacts that carbon (CO2) emissions have on the climate and scenarios projected for the future. Despite the dire predictions, the mood was optimistic as the speakers focused on solutions to the problem of global climate change.

Aggressive renewable energy programs are the solution, said Dr. Frank Kreith, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado. We have the technological capabilities to produce our energy from solar, wind and biofuels, but there must be more political will and economic incentives. Kreith outlined the most important tools that will encourage utilities and consumers to invest in alternative energy. System benefits charges, portfolio standards, net metering and national multi-year goals were the top tools that he believed would promote renewables. He pointed out that 18 U.S. states have enacted programs that will collectively produce 29,000 MW of electricity from renewable sources by 2017. And although the U.S. is still very much addicted to fossil fuels, Kreith said that the country could go 20% renewable by 2020. He was optimistic that the goal could be met. Dr. Donald Aitken, a Senior Consulting Scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists said that an aggressive strategy is necessary now. “We can really pull this off. We can slow or even stop climate change if we face the social, technical and economic factors that drive the problem,” he said. Aitken described the need for developing countries to integrate renewable resources into their energy portfolios. He said that the technology is available, there just need to be incentives such as emissions trading credits and the removal of “procedural, institutional, and economic barriers to renewable energy.” “The developing nations have the opportunity to move directly into the renewable energy transition, skipping many of the large scale centralized power systems that are now becoming obsolete and dangerously unreliable in the developed countries,” Aitken said. Action needs to happen before it is too late, explained Dennis Dimick, a reporter for National Geographic who writes extensively on climate change. He said that meteorological and ecological shifts are already occurring as a result of CO2 emissions. The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are far higher than at any point in the last 450,000 years, causing temperatures to rise and glaciers to melt rapidly. The arctic has seen a 9% decline in ice cover over the last 30 years. “Things that normally happen in a geologic time frame are happening during the span of a human lifetime,” Dimick said. “It’s like watching the Statue of Liberty melt before your eyes.” According to Dimick, and many other leading scientists and researchers, humans are disrupting the carbon cycle, which is spurring climate change. He said that we are “taking from the geological side of the carbon cycle and putting it into the biological side of the cycle,” which is affecting plant and animal life all over the world. And some of the problems we have yet to see or understand, Dimick warned. To combat global climate change, then, there needs to be a major shift in the way the United States and the rest of the world produces and consumes energy. It will just take a lot of creative thinking and aggressive tactics from the renewable energy industry.

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