by Carlo Caloisi
The Earth’s ecosystem is constantly changing. In the course of geological eras, climatic changes occur slowly enough to allow living beings to adapt to changing conditions.
In rare cases there have also been climatic shocks that have abruptly modified the life of living species on earth, determining mass extinctions and upheavals of ecosystems (e.g. the impact of the great asteroid that marked the Jurassic-Cretaceous transition of about 65 million years ago).
In addition to these abrupt changes, over the past 150 years, anthropogenic activity has been added. Technological, economic and demographic development has had a significant impact on the climate of the planet causing enormous changes in a very short period of time, geologically speaking.
The productive activities, in particular, releasing into the atmosphere increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, etc. ..), caused mainly by the combustion of fossil resources, generate the increase in temperature (global warming) that is recorded in the last century with consequent episodes of desertification of large areas, melting of ice and decreased biodiversity.
All this could not go unnoticed for a long time, so much so that we are trying to find shared planetary solutions to deal with an increasingly present and impending criticality. There have been numerous international meetings to reach an agreement (among the last ones we can mention the Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015 (COP21), the one in Katowice in 2018 (COP24) and the most recent one in Glasgow in 2021 (COP26)).
Significant commitments, although not signed by all, to eliminate coal from energy sources by 2050 and to limit the increase in temperature below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
At the same time, the European Union has taken up the challenge, considering climate change a real existential threat not only continental, but global. To this end it has fielded the European Green Deal, an ambitious program through the allocation of one third of the investments of the Next Generation EU, with which it aims to be the first continent with zero climate impact through three key objectives:
- reduction of net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and their elimination by 2050;
- economic growth decoupled from resource use;
- no person and no place left behind.
order to achieve these challenges, it is necessary to decrease the sources of energy derived from fossil resources and significantly increase the so-called “green” ones – renewable energies (photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric, etc. ..) – through a broader system that creates an economic model linked to sustainable development and that takes into account the production activity by evaluating both the benefits derived from growth and the environmental impact caused by the processing of raw materials: the so-called Green Economy.
In the Green Economy model, public and private investments are focused on:
- reduction of carbon emissions:
- increased energy efficiency;
- increasing resources;
- ensuring the maintenance of biodiversity;
- preservation of the ecosystem.
For the achievement of the above points, some of the objectives that institutions and private individuals set can be summarized in the:
- reduction of energy consumption of public and private buildings (energy efficiency);
- increasing the share of renewable energy sources (“green” energy);
- improvement and optimization of waste recycling (e.g. circular economy);
- reorganization of cities of electrical systems and conversion of existing (e.g. smart city);
- improvement of urban mobility (e.g. efficiency and “green” conversion of transport).
For what has just been said, two consequential aspects will be fundamental and will provide a decisive push to achieve the objectives such as technological innovation that will be closely linked to economic convenience to allow the interest of large players, an aspect that fortunately begins to become concrete.
Renewable energies (photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric, hydrogen, biomass, tides, etc..), still depend largely on fossil fuels, so they can not necessarily be considered completely green. In addition, they currently have significantly lower capacity factors (the ratio between the effective power of the energy source and the power it could generate at full capacity). However, the transition is underway even if thinking of instantly abandoning fossil fuels is simply unrealistic.
Technology and innovation will gradually help the transition, but the time and willingness of national state organizations with the contribution of private companies will be decisive.
The realization of smart cities will be the subject of a further challenge both in terms of the type of cultural approach to be instilled in the citizenry (see education to reduce waste), and through the adoption of new configurations of electrical systems to date shaped according to the good functioning of fossil fuels. A bit like what we have started to do and continue to raise awareness for the separate collection of waste and its disposal.
The commitments made both during the Conference of Parties (COP) and with regard to the European Green Deal could be slowed down due to objectives that are probably too stringent to partially revise the green taxonomy of the EU by including gas and nuclear and due to recent geopolitical events such as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict still in progress.
Certainly, however, everything will be faster the more urgent it is to safeguard the planet.
SOURCES AND IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS
- Climate change (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change
- Greenhouse gas (Wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas
- European Green Deal: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en
- EUROSTAT – Renewable energy statistics: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Renewable_energy_statistics
- Green Economy – definizione: https://www.politicheeuropee.gov.it/it/comunicazione/europarole/green-economy/
- Introduction to the Green Economy Approach – module 1: https://www.un-page.org/files/public/module_1_introduction_to_the_green_economy_approach.pdf
- Royal Society – Climate Change, Evidence & Causes; https://royalsociety.org/~/media/royal_society_content/policy/projects/climate-evidence-causes/climate-change-evidence-causes.pdf
- Climate change – causes, effects, remedies: https://www.enelgreenpower.com/it/learning-hub/transizione-energetica/cambiamento-climatico-cause-conseguenze
- COP21 – Paris – adoption of the Paris agreement: https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf
- COP24 – Katowice – Decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/10a1.pdf
- COP26 – THE GLASGOW CLIMATE PACT: https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/COP26-Presidency-Outcomes-The-Climate-Pact.pdf
- Intergovernmental panel on climate change – IPCC 2021: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM_final.pdf
- Capacity factor by energy source in 2020: https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/nuclear-power-most-reliable-energy-source-and-its-not-even-close
- EU puts green label for nuclear and gas officially on the table – EURACTIV: https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/eu-puts-green-label-for-nuclear-and-gas-officially-on-the-table/