As general-session panelists dutifully recited the attributes of wind energy at the recently concluded WINDPOWER 2013 in Chicago, fellow panelist Larry Schweiger, president/CEO at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), let forth with statements so pointed that they quickly shattered the genial atmosphere of the McCormick Place ballroom.
Schweiger urged wind attendees to become their own best advocates in educating the public and decision-makers about how wind energy can help combat climate change.
‘For a long time, the wind community has talked about wind energy in a way that has not been about the climate threat,’ Schweiger tells NAW, adding that wind energy, among other renewable energy sources, can help mitigate the rate of global warming from reaching the point of no return.
Schweiger cites a November 2012 report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers examining the effect the carbon-intensity rate has on global temperatures. The report – ‘Too Late for Two Degrees?’ – found that in order to give the planet a 50/50 chance against a two-degree rise in temperature, global carbon emissions must be reduced by 50%.
‘We need to help people understand that we are facing a climate emergency,’ Schweiger says, explaining recent catastrophic weather events will become the norm if the planet continues to warm.
‘With four percent more moisture over the oceans, coupled with warmer surface waters, there is more moisture and energy to supercharge bigger hurricanes,’ he adds, noting Hurricane Sandy.
He says scientists are also studying the link between last month's deadly Oklahoma tornadoes and climate change, but at this moment scientists do not have sufficient data to conclusively link tornado frequency and intensity to a warming planet. ‘The point is we are changing the climate with carbon pollution and that is triggering unprecedented and dangerous weather conditions around the world," he says.
‘The wind industry needs to educate decision-makers as well as the public about how wind energy is an important pathway in climate change," Schweiger continues. "We need to find a way to link the two together. This is not about wind for wind's sake – it's a solution.’
Such efforts will no doubt raise the ire of fossil-fuel advocates, who are battle-tested in waging hard-fought campaigns. Schweiger explains scientists studying climate change have been "brutalized by the surrogates of the fossil-fuel industry."
‘The fossil-fuel industry plays hard ball," he says. ‘The people that have gone after them have targets on their backs and scars on their bodies. The wind industry needs to be more assertive in their messaging. Otherwise, the wind industry will continue to plod along.’
For its part, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) maintains that it continually works with the NWF and other environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) on climate-change matters, according to Peter Kelley, AWEA spokesperson.
By deploying non-emitting renewables, the production tax credit and renewable portfolio standards are, in essence, climate policy, Kelley notes. ‘We have worked with NWF and other ENGOs to advance these policies.’