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Surprising Science

I.P.C.C. Optimistic About Renewable Energy

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its first-ever detailed analysis of alternative energy technologies and their potential role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s the Latest Development?

In its first-ever analysis of renewable energy resources, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) estimates that renewable energy could provide nearly 80 percent of the globe’s power by 2050, if fully supported by governments eager to maximize its potential. Completely excluding nuclear energy as a future energy source, the report includes solar photovoltaic, wind power, geothermal and ocean wave technologies as among the renewable sources. Most controversially, the bulk of future renewables comes from energy derived by traditional biomass. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The new report, whose predictions the I.P.C.C. says rely on active government investment, have taken many in the scientific and renewable energy communities off guard, so optimistic are its findings. The research is not without its caveats, however. While many environmentalists say use of traditional biomass, i.e. wood burning, causes deforestation and health problems due to indoor air contamination, the report counts this energy source as a valid renewable resource. As most of the world’s population still lacks access to modern energy production, wood burning remains a crucial, if crude, source of energy. 


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