Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Engineers Say Achieving UK Emission Reduction Targets 'Unlikely'

A damning study from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) says that achieving the UK's target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 is unlikely and other approaches will be needed to mitigate climate change. While the report, "Climate Change: have we lost the battle?", applauds the Government's emission reduction targets, it says that to achieve them would require decarbonising at a rate never seen before.

According to the IMechE, between 2001 and 2006, the UK reduced carbon output per unit of GDP by 1.3% annually. But the rate necessary to achieve the Government's emission reduction targets would have to top 5% annually until 2050. To get the UK on track, says the report, would require the construction and operation of the equivalent of 30 new nuclear power stations in the next five years and the retiring of a similar amount of coal-fired power generation. The country would have to increase its number if wind turbines more than ten-fold from 2600 to 27,000 by 2030 and a further 13,000 by 2050. Nuclear Power is not the answer, it creates a big waste problem, is too centralised, has safety concerns and it would take too long. Renewables are the answer.

Even with unprecedented levels of public investment in low-carbon technologies, the IMechE report maintains that a different approach needs to be pursued. The report calls on the Government to adopt a 'battle plan' that, in addition to continuing its existing emission reduction policies, would pursue strategies to adapt to predicted climate change and undertake major geo-engineering projects to remove CO2 from the atmosphere or reflect solar radiation back into space. Schemes suggested in the report include building 100,000 artificial trees to absorb CO2.

They say that the geo-engineering technologies could be gradually reduced over time as the UK transitions to a fully low-carbon economy. Without adopting these kinds of measures, the report says the UK is already losing the climate change mitigation battle.

I dont think we need geo-engineering myself. Why design a technology (that may not work) that stores carbon when we already have the solution? Reduce emissions and plant lots of trees.

tree-600, originally uploaded by adrianwindisch.


Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have risen 29% since 2000, according to an international team of researchers. Compared to 1990, the Kyoto Protocol reference year, the rise is 41%. The Global Carbon Project, writing in peer reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, also report a 2% increase in emissions during 2008 despite the economic downturn. However, this is less than the 3.4% average annual rate of increase over the same period.

The use of coal as a fuel now exceeds oil for the first time in 40 years and developing countries have overtaken their western counterparts in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the significant increases in human-induced CO2 emissions, the researchers found that the fraction of global CO2 emissions that remained in the atmosphere each year has increased around 5% in the last 50 years, indicating that natural carbon sinks maybe decreasing in efficiency.

C. Le Quéré, M. R. Raupach, J. G. Canadell, G. Marland et al. Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Nature Geoscience (published online 17 Nov 2009)

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