LAUNCESTON, Australia (Reuters) – Coal-fired power has to end by 2050 to save the planet. That seemingly simple but bold sentiment is likely to set much of the political, social and economic agenda for the coming decades, but in the end it will come down to what China does.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a report on Monday that “unprecedented” changes will have to take place to limit the rise in the Earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), warning of devastating weather events and species loss if the target is exceeded.
In order to achieve the goal, the IPCC said coal burning would have to drop to between zero and 2 percent by 2050, while even natural gas, coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS), would have to decline to 8 percent of electricity generation by the middle of this century.
While coal has long been the bogeyman of climate activists, the IPCC has effectively thrown down the gauntlet and given world leaders a little over 30 years to phase it out entirely.
Initial reaction to the IPCC report has been predictable, with supporters of renewable energy cheering it, and backers of fossil fuels resorting to the familiar arguments that somehow the science is either wrong or a hoax.