Mitigating Climate Change with Renewable Energy

More than 1,250 international experts, nearly 1,200 scenarios analyzed, nearly 10,000 references to existing studies, two reviews soliciting tens of thousands of expert comments, and a summary approved line by line by representatives of 195 member governments.

The effort with which an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) work group put together the assessment released this week on mitigating the conditions that have produced unprecedentedly extreme weather over the past decade is astonishing in its breadth and thoroughness.

So when the work group’s report – which will be folded into an overall IPCC assessment (the fifth since 1988) to be released in October – concludes that a massive shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy must begin now, it’s a finding that has come with what is likely the widest scientific and political consensus possible. In other words: Believe it.

As sobering as the report and its conclusion are, it did contain some important positive news. 25x’25, other stakeholders and forward-thinking policy makers understand that renewable energy technologies have over the past decade demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions. A growing number of these technologies have achieved a level of maturity that enables their deployment on a significant scale and provides the solutions to the challenges that come with a changing climate.

And just as important is the report’s caution that the longer policy makers around the world wait to make the transition to cleaner energy, the more it will cost and the more difficult the shift will become.

America’s farmers, ranchers and forestland owners are well positioned to contribute to this transition and seize the economic opportunity that can come with helping the United States take a lead global role in stemming climate change. Not only can they produce vast amounts of clean, renewable energy, they can sequester carbon through the crops, grasses and trees they grow and transform byproducts from their own operations – using anaerobic digesters, for example ‑ into value-added products that add new revenue streams.

And boosting renewable energy as a mitigation strategy, the experts agree, is eminently affordable. Reducing the use of fossil fuels in the coming decades and turning to renewables is the least expensive and least risky way of stemming rising temperatures. If the billions of dollars spent on fossil fuels would be diverted to renewable energy and energy efficiency, a mere six-hundredths of a percent would be shaved off of economic growth rates projected to run between 1.3 percent and 3 percent each year. (It is fair to note that the work group says natural gas, when used to replace coal, will play an important role in the transition.)

But renewable energy’s contribution to our national energy strategy can only continue and grow if elected leaders reject the calls from fossil fuel interests that would weaken the policies that have allowed the United States to take the lead in a clean energy economy.

Measures like the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and renewable energy production tax credits, and at the state level, Renewable Portfolio Standards that require a specific percentage of utility-generated power to come from renewables, are all under some sort of attack from those who would maintain a “business-as-usual” approach to meeting our energy needs. Yet all of these policy measures serve to sustain and build on the infinite sources of clean energy that renewables provide.

As the IPCC mitigation report makes clear: Now is not the time to vacillate on the policies that maintain the strongest front against changes in climate that pose a threat to global food stocks and human security.

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