There is an overwhelming concensus of political opinion that action needs to be taken to address the effects of climate change and, at the Bali Conference in December 2007, the secretary general of the UN summed the situation up as follows:
“The time for equivocation is over. The science is clear. Climate change is happening. The impact is real. The time to act is now.
Climate change is as much an opportunity as it is a threat. It is our chance to usher in a new age of green economics and truly sustainable development. New economies can and must grow with reduced carbon intensity even as they create new jobs and alleviate poverty.
Those who have done the least to cause the problem bear the gravest consequences. We have an ethical obligation to right this injustice. We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable."
The Stern Report (sponsored by the UK Government) indicates that if action is to be taken, the global cost of doing so now will be approximately 1% of the world's GDP a year whereas if this is delayed until the effects of climate change have taken hold these could rise to as much as 20% of global GDP a year.
While a range of actions will be required, some 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the combustion of fossil fuels (be that to produce electricity, heat or for transport) and a move to more sustainable sources of energy, including wind power, is viewed as one of the major ways in which climate change can be tackled.
While the costs of renewable energy may (in the short term) be a little higher than those of burning fossil fuels, the costs in the longer term, when the full effects of greenhouse gas emissions are taken into account, will without doubt be considerably lower.
Global greenhouse gas emissions
(World Resource Institute data for 2000)