Dr. Veronica Bermudez from HBKU’s QEERI discusses decarbonization and how it has to be embedded into the economy, society, and the environment
The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is essential to fight the climate crisis, and it must involve citizens as well as political and business interests to make that change from one energy model to the other, says a leading Doha-based researcher.
“Renewable energies do not emit greenhouse gases in operation while supplying energy; and so it is a clean solution that avoids the environmental degradation associated to energy supply, and thus does not contribute to the ongoing climate change patterns," said Dr. Veronica Bermudez, Senior Research Director, Energy Center at Qatar Energy and Environment Research Institute (QEERI), part of Qatar Foundation’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).
There are various sources of renewable energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wave that are inexhaustible sources (at least at mankind timescales), unlike traditional fossil-based energy sources. “These energy sources are abundant, diverse and have the potential for use anywhere on the planet. Renewable energies are just as available as the sun where they originate and adapt to natural cycles,” Dr. Bermudez said.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency – IRENA – if the share of renewable energies in the world energy were to double until reaching 32 percent in 2030, it would bring with it a 3.7 percent increase in human well-being, and an increase in employment in the sector for more than 24 million people.
If used properly, renewable energy can contribute to social and economic development, promote access to clean energy for everybody, and secure energy supply
“If used properly, renewable energy can contribute to social and economic development, promote access to clean energy for everybody, and secure energy supply, while reducing energy related negative effects on the environment and health.”
Dr. Bermudez pointed out that on a global scale, the contributions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests, together with the emissions of the rest of greenhouse gases due to human activity, have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases causing the current observed climate change patterns, of which the most important is CO2. Currently, CO2 represents 4/5th of the problem. In turn, 2/3rd of the total greenhouse gas emissions are due to the CO2 emitted in the energy sector, in the burning of fossil fuels and in industrial processes.
Once it is understood that CO2 is the largest contributor to climate change…it is absolutely necessary and urgent to reduce and stop its production
“Once it is understood that CO2 is the largest contributor to climate change – by quantity emitted and impact on climate patterns – it is absolutely necessary and urgent to reduce and stop its production, whatever its origin. At the current emission trends, the greenhouse effect will be enough to increase the global average temperature by almost 5° Celsius by the end of the century. In this sense it must be considered that the effects observed today are due to only 1.1° Celsius increase average above the pre-industrial period.
“It is important to reduce the carbon footprint of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) used for energy purposes, by replacing them with renewable energy when possible (for example for thermal or electrical uses), and capturing CO2 already emitted in the atmosphere. This is what has come to be called decarbonizing the energy system, and it is at the heart of all National Plans for Zero Net Carbon emissions worldwide.”
Since energy has been the engine of human development in its different dimensions, decarbonization has to be structurally and profoundly extended to the economic, social, and environmental systems.
The truth is that the transportation and processing of materials for recycling also involves the emission of carbon dioxide
From an individualistic perspective, “walking, biking, or using public transportation instead of cars will reduce carbon emissions,” Dr. Bermudez said, “or put wet clothes in the sun instead of using tumble dryers and try to save electricity as much as possible. Turn off and unplug your appliances when not in use.”
She also suggests eating less meat and try to consume more local vegetables and fruits to minimize the carbon footprint of our diet. The production of red meat carries a significantly higher number of greenhouse gas emissions than that of chicken, fruits, vegetables, and cereals.
“We have been told about the benefits of recycling over and over throughout our lives, but the truth is that the transportation and processing of materials for recycling also involves the emission of carbon dioxide. So, if you reduce the waste you throw away, and try to reuse as much as possible, you are reducing the burden of recycle processing and the associated emissions.
“And finally, working to make others aware of the importance of renewable energy is another great way to do something for the society and for the planet. If we are a loudspeaker of how clean energy is better for the planet than that of fuels, we will collaborate to invest in that idea.”