I bet you read the "news" last week. Climate change impacts are now everywhere and it's going to get much worse if we continue polluting our way into the future.
It's frustrating. It's infuriating. And it makes you want to switch off.
But wait. Scientists are not done yet, and it's about to get exciting. Starting today in Berlin, experts from around the world will be finalizing the third part of UN climate panel's periodic climate assessment, discussing ways to fight this beast.
A lot has happened since they last assessed ways to cut climate pollution in 2007.
In politics, we witnessed how climate change topped the global political agenda in 2009 and culminated in the Copenhagen summit, referenced even as 'the most important international meeting since the Second World War'. Well, that didn't end well. Countries agreed to disagree on emission cuts and since then climate politics have been pretty much stuck while emissions have kept growing.
But in technology, things look very different today. Renewable energy has made a breakthrough: it's bigger, it’s cheaper and it's ready to challenge dirty energy.
There's now over ten times more solar photovoltaic, six times more concentrating solar thermal power and three times more wind power in the world than in 2007. While the shares on a global level are still modest, growth rates are high and some countries already reach high shares too.
The host country Germany, one of the world's largest economies, now gets almost 25% of its power from renewables, up from 8% in 2002. By 2050 it aims to meet 80% of its electricity with renewables while phasing out nuclear.
China has doubled its cumulative wind capacity each year between 2006 and 2011, and in 2012 China's wind power generation already increased more than generation from coal. In India, where the coal industry is choking under inefficiency, corruption and environmental concerns, solar energy was almost zero just three years ago but now it's booming and becoming economically more attractive for investors.
Most importantly, the costs of renewable energy have come down, making it the most economical solution for new capacity in a growing number of countries. Investment banking giant Citigroup now hails the beginning "age of renewables", saying that solar and wind energy are increasingly competitive with coal, gas and nuclear in the U.S. – the world's biggest electricity market.
The International Energy Agency now says that any country can reach high shares of wind and solar power cost-effectively. But system choice is needed, because in the long run trying to please the old players (coal, gas and nuclear industries) while building a new system that operates differently is not going to work. As a result, the old players with old business models are fighting back.
The choice between the new and the old system shouldn't be difficult. While renewables are proving that they can deliver, the old system is proving that it can't. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Fukushima nuclear accident and the apocalyptic air pollution problem in China are all accelerating transition to cleaner and safer energy. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), that was to buy time for the fossil fuel industry, is failing to meet expectations.
I expect the IPCC report to reflect these recent changes in the energy system, as it outlines the scale of change needed in this and other sectors.
What the IPCC Working Group 1 report already outlined is that eventually, it's not enough to cut fossil fuel pollution. We need to get these emissions to zero. And it can be done. Many cities, regions and institutions around the world have already set or even achieved targets on 100% renewables on power or total energy. Global companies like IKEA, Google, Apple, Facebook, Salesforce and Walmart have committed to 100 % renewable power. Denmark, who will host this year’s last IPCC report approval in October, is committed to producing 100% of its heat and power with renewable energy by 2035 and all its energy by 2050.
So here's an idea for governments who in the UN are stuck in endless fights about "burden sharing": open your eyes and face the reality. Climate action is no longer a burden, when it means investments into clean and smart energy. Instead of fighting over who gets to emit still what in 2050, how about agreeing, in the Paris treaty next year, that by mid century, there are no "emission rights" to be shared for anyone. By setting a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels and going for 100% renewable energy for all by mid century, governments could provide an inspiring, unifying goal for the whole of humanity, and turn the negative vibes around the UN into something positive.
We have the technology, money and intelligence to replace our hazardous energy system with clean and safe energy, in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. So let's just get on with it.
P.S. Ms. Merkel and other EU leaders, for you it means agreeing on that binding 45% renewable energy target for 2030 in June.
Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace Senior Political Advisor, Climate & Energy