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Converting Natural Resources into Electricity

K.K. Duvivier, Robin Newmark, Renewable Electric Energy

Carbon dioxide concentrations reached a record 400 parts per million in May 2013. This threshold represents a level “unsurpassed in at least 800,000 years.” According to measurements taken from arctic ice cores, atmospheric CO2 had not reached this level during the entire course of human history (Samenow 2013).

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (IPCC 2011). While some may disagree about the cause of this CO2 increase, there is general consensus that changes in global energy systems could mitigate the impacts (IPCC 2011). In 2011, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, known as the SRREN (IPCC 2011). Authored by more than 120 experts from all over the world in IPCC Working Group III, the SRREN highlighted the opportunity to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if countries around the world shifted their generation and consumption of energy from fossil-fuel sources to renewables. In fact, the SRREN noted that, with appropriate enabling public policies, renewable energy sources could contribute 80% of the world's energy supply by mid-century (IPCC 20