This week, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made public the full text of its renewables report, which details a revolutionary vision for reducing Greenhouse emissions by using renewables to replace fossil fuels, and phasing out nuclear power along the way.
Before any ink even had a chance to dry, however, the report was already under attack from some desperate commentators who appear to have a strange, fundamental disbelief in the possibility of a clean energy future.
According to the IPCC’s ‘Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation’ (SRREN), by harnessing just 2.5% of viable renewable energy sources, with currently available technologies, its possible to provide up to 80% of the world’s energy demand by 2050. In order to achieve that, the study considers that demand for energy will be reduced by increased efficiency measures, which are both thermodynamically possible as well the best basis for policy: efficiency, after all is the cleanest and cheapest way of ‘generating’ energy. This is good news, but to reap the benefits of this vision, it’s now up to governments to take the necessary action to make it happen.
I am happy to say that not only was I one of the contributors who worked together to create the 1000 page IPCC report, but the document also contains an in-depth study of Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution, which was chosen as one of the lead scenarios.
It’s this inclusion of Greenpeace opinion that seems to have outraged writer Mark Lynas, who has posted a blog based on claims by Steve McIntyre, who Lynas describes as “a thorn in the side of the IPCC and climate science generally for a long time”. Lynas accuses Greenpeace of starting with “some conclusions and then set about justifying them” – a trap he seems to have fallen into himself, by assuming that anything that comes from a non-governmental organisation (NGO) must be, by default, wrong, even if its findings have been recognised up by the German Space Agency and the hundreds of experts that worked on the development of the IPCC report.
Lynas’ blog starts with the premise that the IPPC’s ”renewables report conclusion was dictated by Greenpeace”, a preposterous suggestion, that shows a complete lack of understanding of the laborious processes involved in creating a report like the SRREN. No matter what way you look at it, taking into account that I was just one of 120 contributors, each of whom had to respond to long lists of comments on their contributions from dozens of reviewers, the idea that I, or Greenpeace being in a position to simply ‘dictate’ a conclusion is an clearly absurd one.
Lynas’ also questions how I ended up being part of the IPCC report. First of all, Greenpeace had no part on it in the SRREN. Like all governments taking part, the German government put forward a shortlist of prospective authors – I was one of the seven German experts chosen, and as far as I’m aware, I was the only engineer working with an environmental organisation who took part.
In total, more than 120 experts took part in authoring this third edition of the SRREN, which went through four cycles of exhaustive peer reviewing by energy experts from government, the academia, business and NGOs, each lasting between six and eight weeks, over a two-and-a-half year period, to ensure that its data, methods and conclusions are entirely transparent and open to public scrutiny.
The SRREN looked at 164 different energy ‘scenarios’, zeroing in on four for in-depth study, one of which is The Energy [R]evolution, which is the result of a partnership between Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), an umbrella group of organizations within the renewable energy industry, with members including companies like Siemens and French nuclear manufacturer AREVA. While the renewable energy industry provided key technical data for this project, the actual modeling for the Energy [R]evolution was performed by the prestigious German Space Agency (DLR).
Chapter 10 of the SRREN, which I substantially contributed to, had nine lead authors, and two coordinating authors overseeing its creation, and was thoroughly reviewed by independent experts and governments. Mr Lynas seems to think that the opinions expressed by anyone working for an NGO are somehow suspect; however it is known that the IPCC continuously – and quite publically - draws on a wide range of expertise and experience from NGOs, business and academia.
Finally, while it’s certainly flattering that Mr Lynas thinks that Greenpeace has the power to “dictate” IPCC conclusions, it is a great pity that he doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that the IPCC chose to include the findings of Greenpeace, the EREC and the German Space Agency in The Energy [R]evolution for one very good reason - because hundreds of energy experts from different backgrounds, considered it a good, realistic and useful piece of research. If Mr Lynas has a problem with these findings, he should clearly demonstrate his issue with them, rather than simply trying to claim that some crude conspiracy theory is at work.
Sven Teske is an engineer and Greenpeace canpaigner with more than 17 years experience working in renewable energy research.
For more on this, this blog from Climate Progress is a good read: IPCC Criticized for Making an Accurate Statement: Renewables Could Meet Over 75% of Global Energy Needs in 2050