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Why does it matter to save energy?

smokestacksmokestackGreenhouse gas emissions 'highest in human history' says IPCC report

Global greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated in recent years. This is the stark finding of a new report by the smokestackIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Between 2000 and 2010, emissions grew more rapidly than in each of the three previous decades, by an average of 2.2% per year. To limit the rise in global mean temperature to below 2°C will require cutting emissions by 40-70% from 2010 levels by 2050, and to near-zero by 2100. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuels continues to represent about three-quarters of all GHGs.

'Clear message from science'

The report, entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, was published in April. Co-chair of the Working Group that wrote the report, Ottmar Edenhofer, warned: "There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual. Avoiding further delays in mitigation and making use of a broad variety of technologies can limit the associated costs."turbine

GHG cuts across all sectors

Some 1200 scenarios were analysed, generated by 31 modelling teams around the world, exploring the various economic, technological and institutional options and their implications for various mitigation pathways. The report assesses the evidence for different strategies across all sectors, including energy, transport, buildings, industry, land use and human settlements, and examines their feasibility.

Key goals are much greater efficiency in energy use, and electricity generation with near-zero emissions. There are some hopeful signs, though. For example, over half of all new electricity-generating capacity added globally in 2012 was from renewables!

Other options are withdrawal of some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, for instance by afforestation, and by carbon capture and storage, although the latter is not yet feasible on any effective scale. Above all, GHG emissions must be decoupled from economic and population growth, and there is an urgent need for effective international action to tackle the problem.