Abu Dhabi: The heat energy trapped by carbon emissions and pollutants across the globe every day is equal to exploding 400,000 nuclear bombs similar to the one dropped in Hiroshima during the Second World War, Al Gore, former US vice-president and chairman of the Climate Reality Project, said at the Abu Dhabi Ascent summit on Sunday.
Speaking at the opening session of the two-day high-level meeting attended by leaders from government, business and civil society across the world, Gore said that within six years, more than 80 per cent of the world population will have access to photovoltaic electricity at rates equal to or cheaper than the grid average price. “The solutions [to reverse and limit climate change] are [therefore] coming along much faster than we expected. There was a projection 12 years ago that the world would have 1 gigawatt of photovoltaic energy per year by 2010. When 2010 came around, we [had] exceeded this potential by 17 times. This year, we will exceed it by 54 times,” he added.
The Abu Dhabi Ascent summit is being held ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, which will seek to build political momentum so that a legal climate agreement can be reached at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in December 2015.
Although the energy sector contributes 60 per cent of global carbon emissions, clean energy is developing fast across the world and helping the fight against climate change. Solar photovoltaic energy today generates electricity at the same or lower cost compared to power grids in 79 countries (grid parity), Gore said.
Drawing attention to devastating weather events caused by global warming, Gore pointed out that 90 million tonnes of heat-trapping pollutants are released into the air every 24 hours. As a result, last month (April) was the 350th month in a row when temperatures were consistently higher than the 20th century average.
“Extreme weather events [such as floods, typhoons, droughts, etc] are a signal from Mother Nature that the world has a fever. So we must stop using the atmosphere as an open sewer,” he added.
Gore was, however, optimistic that the required changes would come about quicker than projected, saying that “political will itself is a renewable resource”.
Drawing the similarities between cell phone use and renewable energy growth, he narrated how a 1980 study telecommunication firm AT&T had indicated that they could sell 1 million cell phones by 2000. By 2000 however, 119 million cell phones were sold.
The reason why projections differ greatly from reality when it comes to the growth of technologies, whether for phones or renewable energies, is because the cost of these technologies drops much quicker than anticipated and quality continues to improve.
“We are seeing the cost [of renewable energies drop] an average of 15 per cent every single year,” the former US Vice President said.
Moreover developing countries without the existing structures for conventional energies “leapfrog” in disseminating new energy sources.
“A lot of developing countries don’t have very good electricity structures. So new business models and financial arrangements are emerging,” he added.
As huge initial investments on mobile phone networks improved the life of millions in developing countries, the same strategy can promote renewable energy for a clean environment and better living standards, Adnan Z Ameen, Director-General of Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), had said earlier.
A farmer in Kenya uses his mobile phone to know the market prices of his crop and transfer money to somebody living faraway, he said in interview with Gulf News in 2012.
Penetration of mobile telephones has transformed the lives of so many. Renewable energy projects have mostly one-time initial investment with less maintenance or operational costs. But like the mobile phone networks, renewable energy projects can also help the vast majority of the population, Ameen had said.