The world is largely ill-prepared for the risks of a changing climate, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The energy sector is just one of many that must adapt to meet these challenges.
The IPCC's Working Group II - which assesses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change - says that the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world. Its new report details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks.
"Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people's livelihoods," the report says. It says that the nature of the risks of climate change is increasingly clear, "though climate change will also continue to produce surprises." There are opportunities to respond to the risks, it notes, "though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming."
Working group co-chair Chris Field said, "Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming." He added, "We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond."
The group's report - entitled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - consists of two volumes. The first contains a summary for policy makers, a technical summary and chapters assessing risks by sector and opportunities for response. The second volume assesses risks and opportunities for response by geographic region.
Impacts on energy
With regards to energy, the IPCC working group expects climate change to increase the demand for energy in most regions of the world. In addition, it is likely to impact usage patterns - with less energy being required for heating but more needed for cooling - as well as affecting individual energy sources and technologies.
For example, the thermal efficiency of fossil fuel, nuclear, biomass and solar power generation could all be negatively affected by climate change. Gradual changes in various climate attributes (such as temperature, rainfall, windiness and cloudiness) and possible changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will progressively affect operation over time, the report says. Climate-induced changes in the availability and temperature of water for cooling "remains a primary concern" for thermal and nuclear power plants. Several options are available to cope with reduced water availability but at higher cost.
"Climate change impacts on energy supply will be part of an evolving picture dominated by technological development in the pursuit for safer, cheaper and more reliable energy sources and technologies as well as mitigation and adaptation response pathways," the report concludes.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News