Wind Power in the UK (PDF). - Sustainable Development Commission

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Wind Power in the UK (PDF). - Sustainable Development Commission

2 Delivering clean energy: the role of windSummary• There is now consensus that carbon dioxide emissions are causing climate change, and theharmful effects are widely recognised• The UK Government and Devolved Administrations have responded to the dangers of climatechange by promoting the development of renewable energy sources, including wind power, toreduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases• Government policy aims to obtain 10% of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010,with an aspiration to source 20% by 2020• These targets form part of commitments to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, with thelong-term goal of a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050• The UK has the best and most geographically diverse wind resources in Europe, more thanenough to meet current renewable energy targets2.1 Climate change and theneed for actionThere is now wide international consensus thathuman activities over the last two centuries sincethe start of the industrial revolution haveinfluenced the global climate in a harmful way 2 .This harm will continue to grow, and coulddramatically accelerate, unless action is taken toreduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, suchas carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) andnitrous oxide (N2O), by very significant amounts.Greenhouse gases are emitted primarily from thecombustion of fossil fuels, intensive agricultureand other industrial processes. They trap solarenergy that would normally be radiated backinto space, causing average global temperaturesto rise. This will affect rainfall patterns and willresult in more frequent extreme weather eventsin the UK and across the globe. Highertemperatures will also lead to melting of thepolar ice caps and a rise in the temperature ofseawater, causing it to expand; these two effectswill cause sea levels to rise.Detailed scientific information is available in thepublications of the Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change 3 (IPCC), the international bodyset up to research and report on the science ofclimate change. The IPCC states that no morethan ten of at least 3,000 international climatescientists reject the idea that greenhouse gasemissions are causing the planet to warm. TheUK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King,certainly agrees – in an article in 2004 4 he statedthat:“In my view, climate change is themost severe problem that we arefacing today, more serious even thanthe threat of terrorism.”Large areas of the world, including manydeveloping countries, are only a few metresabove normal sea level and will suffercatastrophic sea level rises as a consequence ofclimate change. This could lead to the massmigration of millions of displaced people, puttingfurther pressure on already strained resources.The geographical position of the UK makes ithighly vulnerable to the consequences ofclimate change. Extreme weather events such asviolent storms and increased rainfall are alreadyshowing a pattern of change. Low lying, denselypopulated land in the south and east of the UK,6 Wind Power in the UK sustainable development commission

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