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Environmentalists push for renewable energy and efficiency at climate change conference

Environmentalists push for renewable energy and efficiency at climate change conference

There's no shortage of ideas for high-tech measures to combat global warming: develop clean biofuels made of corn or palm oil, ramp up production of advanced nuclear power stations, or bury harmful carbon emissions in underground vaults.
Those are the last solutions many environmentalists want to hear about.
For the green lobby pushing this week for forceful action at a U.N. conference on limiting the rise in global temperatures, such answers either cost too much, delay an inevitable weaning from fossil fuels, or get in the way of the real solutions, such as renewable energy and greater efficiency.
"There are a lot of technologies that are mentioned ... that are not exactly the most sustainable options," said Catherine Pearse, international climate campaigner for the Friends of the Earth environmentalist group. "We may be replacing one existing problem with new ones."
Finding effective mitigation measures at the meeting in Bangkok is crucial to ensuring the world is able to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and keep the atmosphere from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit) and avert the worst impacts of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. network of 2,000 scientists that has produced two landmark reports on global warming this year, is working on a third study to be released Friday. This one deals with mitigation measures.
A draft of the report features a lengthy list of possible solutions: improved energy efficiency such as hybrid vehicles, renewable sources such as solar and hydropower, cleaner-burning coal, biofuels and reforestation.
Nuclear energy is also mentioned, and the United States is pushing for that option to get greater emphasis in the final document.
But not all the proposals are equal, environmentalists argue, saying some _ such as nuclear power _ are even dangerous, while technologies such as renewable energy sources are not given proper emphasis.
The green lobby is a varied group, but the lion's share of them insist mounting concern over global warming should not lead to increased reliance on nuclear energy.
"For us, nuclear power is definitely not a solution. It's dangerous, it's expensive," said Shailendra Yashwant, a climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace. "The costs involved, the dangers involved, they want us to forget all of that."
Even less contentious energy sources have generated opposition among environmental groups.
Biofuels are seen by many as an excellent option. The U.S. Congress, for example, is working on a proposal that would increase production of biofuels, predominantly ethanol, by seven times by 2022. Such fuels are made from corn, palm oil and other agricultural products.
But where some see a profitable way to wean the planet from gasoline, others see even more damage to the environment.
Critics say the increasing interest in biofuel production is already driving corn prices beyond the budgets of the world's poor and leading to an acceleration of deforestation _ one of the causes of global warming _ as lands are cleared to grow oil palm in places like Indonesia.
"You should not be cutting down forests to create fuels," said Yashwant.
Coal is increasingly taking center stage in the global warming debate, for good reason: global hard coal production has increased nearly 80 percent from 1980 to 2005, the World Coal Institute says. China is by far the largest producer.
Coal, however, is an extremely dirty fuel, and scientists are trying to develop technology to capture the carbon emissions before they are released into the atmosphere, and store them underground and under the ocean.
Critics argue the technology is as yet unproven, the storage vaults could leak and that money to develop such measures would be better spent making solar and wind power viable.
Not everyone in the green lobby is opposed to so-called carbon storage. Stephan Singer of the World Wildlife Fund said such a system could be a stopgap measure to cut emissions while the globe converts to non-carbon fuels over the next 50 years.
"It's like an emergency exit," Singer said of the storage idea. "The world is running on coal ... If you look at the U.S. and China, you see it."
The United States and others are arguing for a wide diversity of mitigation measures. They are keen on steps that reap profits and produce high-tech spinoffs, such as biofuels, yet avoid cutting into economic growth.
Still, some say the world needs to decide which measures should be pursued. Otherwise, they argue, governments will take the cheapest, easiest paths rather than ones that would cut carbon emissions the most.
"This is a report that is moving away from the science and moving into the political," said Pearse. "They're looking for a silver bullet, and we don't believe that such a thing exists, not for climate change."
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On the Net:
http://www.ipcc.ch


Updated : 2021-04-23 16:28 GMT+08:00