Early and strong emission reductions are crucial

A new report has found that, in the long term, we can limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. While this may make it sound like we are on the right path to preventing dangerous climate change – scientists say the rise should be kept to below 2°C – the emphasis on the ‘long term’ slightly distorts the picture since long term refers to the period after the year 2100.

More importantly we should note that the report, published by the Met Office Hadley Centre, the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, says while we can achieve a 1.5°C rise, this is highly likely to involve “temporarily overshooting the temperature goal for up to 100 years”.

Rémi Gruet, Regulatory Affairs Advisor for EWEA, explains that such an overshoot could trigger the melting of permafrost soils: “Thawing soils would release methane – a gas more than 20 times more harmful to the climate than CO2,” Gruet says.

What we need now are early and strong emission reductions, he says; an opinion backed up by the report. To avoid the temperature overshoot, emissions reductions must begin now with the technologies we have available and are proven to work.

Wind energy, with its ability to provide carbon free electricity on a massive scale, is one of the most important tools that we are using today. Essentially, we already know that wind power works – today it provides 5% of the EU’s electricity need – so we must develop its reach even further.

The report further notes that to prevent the overshoot we need, “rapid reductions in annual global emissions after 2020.” Arthouros Zervos, President of EWEA, says “a fully renewable power sector is the only solution to reaching 80-95% CO2 reductions by 2050” – the scale of rapid reductions this report is talking about.

Wind turbines can play a big part in this. EWEA foresees that wind farm energy will meet 50% of the EU’s electricity demand in 2050 and, alongside other renewable energies, Europe can be powered 100% by green electricity.

Today, we need the electricity infrastructure, investment and right political priorities in place to avoid the global temperature overshoot and prevent dangerous climate change. Wind power’s success up until now proves we can do this if we invest in the means we have at our disposal now.

By Zoë Casey, blog.ewea.org/