Energy and climate change

(This article was originally published here)

Energy is the most talked about issue these days in the context of the growing world population, climate change, and the need to reduce our carbon footprint. Increasing the renewable energy mix is the way forward for all nations. While there are fast and slow movers in the race to incorporate renewable energy, lessons and experiences are emerging which are critical and interesting to say the least.

Ecofys, an international energy consultancy firm, projects that “other” types of renewables alongside “solar” will have to play a huge role in achieving the renewable energy targets of the future. Jane Burston, Head of Centre for Carbon Measurement, National Physical Laboratory, UK, recently mentioned that the key thing in the expansion of renewable energy in any given country is not the infrastructure, as most people keep pointing out, but it is the lack of awareness.

Technology development and commercialisation of Renewable Energy Technologies are two key factors in this field. Some countries are skilled innovators eg Israel, Finland, USA, while others are good at commercialising eg Brazil, China, and Denmark. A fruitful collaboration between these two groups would provide the ideal platform for the effective scale-up and incorporation of renewable energy technologies globally. Policy innovation, policy quality, responsive certification, culture of entrepreneurship, and public engagement have been identified as the key intangible issues in the commercialization of renewable energy by Jane Burston. Also, point of production and point of need of renewable energy have to be well planned such that there is not too much cost and loss in transmission.

Another hot topic alongside energy is climate change. While discussions continue globally on reducing carbon emissions, it is interesting to see where the existing atmospheric carbon dioxide is ending up. Professor Jon Lloyd, Chair of Global Ecosystem Function of Imperial College London, UK, recently pointed out that the oceans are proving to be less effective as carbon sinks, ie absorbing carbon emissions, whereas the terrestrial systems like the rain forests are proving to be much greater sinks for human-induced increases in atmospheric carbon. This is resulting in temperature increases within the terrestrial systems which might in turn impact the related eco-systems.

While climate change is being talked about almost univocally, Professor Mike Hulme, School of Social Science & Public Policy at King’s College London, UK, argues that a cultural analysis of the climate and its changes is needed parallel to a scientific one. He believes that this would reveal the different meanings of climate change to different people with different beliefs, cultures ,and priorities and would in turn help to design and enact the climate change related policies and interventions in a more meaningful manner. 

Written by: Anika Ali is a Doctoral Researcher, Imperial College, London, UK.