As a renewable and non-polluting energy source, wind power has a role to play in reducing harmful emissions and the impact of climate change. Greater use of wind power also makes us less reliant on increasingly scarce fossil fuels like coal and oil, which are subject to huge price fluctuations and must often be imported from volatile parts of the world.
Scientific studies have attributed an observed rise in average global temperatures over the past 100 years to the burning of fossil fuels, which contain carbon. This has led to a rapid rise in the proportion of ‘greenhouse gases’, like carbon dioxide (CO₂), in the atmosphere, meaning more heat radiation from the sun is retained and the Earth’s surface temperature increases.
This warming activity is thought to be causing extreme weather events to become more common. The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, with floods, droughts and other natural disasters becoming more frequent.
The World Health Organisation estimates that climatic changes are already causing over 150,000 deaths annually, mostly in developing countries. But rich countries are not immune – the exceptionally hot summer of 2003 is estimated by the European Commission to have led to 70,000 premature deaths in Southern Europe. Globally, all of the top ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1998, with 2010 the warmest, according to NASA.
Globally, the UN estimates that there are currently between 25 and 50 million environmentally displaced people or ‘climate refugees’, while Christian Aid has estimated that this figure could rise to 200 million by 2050.
The 2006 Stern Report for the UK Government estimated that the impact of climate change could reduce the size of the global economy by 20%. But it also said spending just 1-2% of GDP on measures to tackle climate change could stop the threat.
Recently, there have been global joint efforts to reduce emissions, most famously the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. And individual governments around the world, including the UK, have set additional targets for themselves. It is hoped that taking action now will help to reduce the impact of climate change in the future.