The warning bells of climate change started ringing since the beginning of the 20th century. We have already seen the effects scientists predicted, like the loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice caps, rising sea levels, and intense heat waves.
While natural shifts in climatic conditions occur over time due to factors like solar activity and volcanic eruptions, human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels since the 1800s, have emerged as the primary driver of climate change. Meteorologists and scientists study climate change using parameters called climate indicators. Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, ocean heat, and ocean acidification form the four key indicators of climate change. The key indicators set a record in 2021 according to the World Meteorological Organization, further exacerbating extreme weather conditions.
The widespread effects caused by climate change on the environment are pretty evident: ice in rivers and lakes melting earlier, shifting plant and animal geographic ranges, plants and trees blooming sooner, and in extreme cases, the occurrence of droughts, wildfires, and unusually heavy rainfall.
To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it is imperative to reduce fossil fuel emissions. This can be implemented by decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels and directing investment into alternative sources of energy that are clean, accessible, affordable, sustainable, and reliable.
Renewable Energy to Alleviate Climate Change
Energy has been the key element in climate change, and energy itself forms the solution to challenges posed by the changing climate.
Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, stand out as the primary contributors to climate change, accounting for 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. The observed increase in global average temperature since the mid-20th century has significantly contributed to the rise of anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Additionally, methane emissions from natural gas and coal mines further accentuate the issue.
In response to these challenges, renewable energy sources emerge as the most prominent alternative. They are available in abundance all around us, provided by the sun, wind, and water. They are replenished by nature itself and release almost zero greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.
Renewable energy sources have a huge potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and thereby mitigate climate change. In addition, renewable energy sources also contribute to social and economic development and a secure and sustainable energy supply. This in turn minimizes the negative impacts of fossil energy on the environment and human health. It also indirectly prevents the adverse impacts of such climate change on water resources, ecosystems, food security, human health, coastal settlements and abrupt changes in the climate system.
For these reasons, renewable energy is widely considered a key role in climate change mitigation and transition towards cleaner energy. Climate change mitigation is in fact, one of the key driving forces behind a growing demand for renewable energy. It is also an excellent approach to meet the growing energy demand of future generations.
Solar energy constitutes the thermal radiation emitted by the Sun’s outer layer. Various technologies are employed to harness this abundant resource. These encompass solar thermal solutions involving solar water heating for industries, photovoltaic electricity generation, concentrating solar power electricity generation by optical concentration of solar energy to obtain high-temperature fluids and methods for solar fuels production that utilise solar energy in fuel synthesis.
One of the primary advantages of solar energy is its potential to reduce greenhouse gases which may lower the atmospheric temperature. Additionally, solar energy mitigates environmental impact by preventing the release of pollutants such as particulates and noxious gases associated with conventional fossil fuel plants. Solar energy technologies stand out for their environmentally friendly nature as they produce electricity without generating any toxic solid, liquid, or gaseous by-products.
Wind energy tapped since ancient times witnessed a significant shift towards commercial-scale electricity generation in the 1970s. Different wind energy technologies are available across a range of applications, but the primary benefit of wind energy of relevance to climate change mitigation is the reduction of greenhouse gases, both short-term and long-term.
An analysis of the relative impacts of various electricity supply technologies shows that wind energy comparatively leaves smaller environmental footprints. Wind energy stands out for its minimal water requirements, negligible waste production, and the absence of mining or drilling activities to secure its fuel supply. This underscores wind energy’s environmental advantages and its potential as a sustainable and eco-friendly power generation option.
Climate Change Mitigation and Impact
Renewable energy has the potential to play an important and increasing role in achieving ambitious climate mitigation targets.
Non-combustion-based renewal energy power generation technologies like solar and wind energy have the potential to significantly reduce local and regional air pollution thereby lowering the health complications associated with it.
Electricity production using wind and solar energy proves advantageous in terms of water consumption, requiring less water compared to conventional fossil fuels. In fact, power plants operating on coal, biomass, gas, and nuclear power show lower efficiency during droughts. A switch to renewable energy preserves the water quality of the place.
Renewable energy and sustainable development have a direct impact on human development and economic productivity. Renewable energy sources present opportunities in energy security fostering social and economic development.
One of its key strengths, renewable energy sources ensure a clean, affordable and easily accessible energy supply. These sources are generally well-distributed globally, ensuring widespread and equitable availability of sustainable energy for various communities.
Every society requires energy to meet basic human needs such as health, lighting, cooking, space comfort, mobility, and communication. A transformative shift towards a world energy system based on renewable energy begins with prioritizing energy efficiency, coupled with policies supporting technology deployment, education, awareness, and the systematic integration of broader sectors like agriculture, transportation, water management, and urban planning.
INKEL commits to promoting the development, dissemination and transfer of environmentally friendly energy supply through research and development, innovation and technology. As renewable energy experts in Kerala, we also undertake projects that ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, modern energy for all and thus combat climate change. By promoting these sustainable energy resources, we strive to create a positive impact on both society and the environment.