Guest essay by Eric Worrall
“If we let these developments go ahead, the biodiversity will be gone long before climate change starts affecting it”
Climate change: Green energy plant threat to wilderness areas
By Matt McGrathEnvironment correspondent
Wind, solar and hydro power installations pose a growing threat to key conservation areas, say researchers.
Researchers found that over 2,200 green energy plants have been built within the boundaries of the Earth’s remaining wilderness.
They say that around 17% of renewable facilities globally are located in protected regions.
A further 900 plants are now being developed in key areas of biodiversity.
The amount of renewable energy facilities in use around the world has essentially tripled over the last 20 years.
Green energy facilities are often much larger than fossil fuel power plants, with wind and solar needing areas of land up to 10 times greater than coal or gas to produce the same amount of energy.
The authors of the report say that greater care must be taken when planning and permitting renewable facilities.
“If we let these developments go ahead, the biodiversity will be gone long before climate change starts affecting it,” said Dr Allan.
“We acknowledge that there is a risk that we will arm some sceptics, but anyone who reads the work will understand that we are not saying that renewables are bad, we just need to put them in the right places.”
…Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-52023881
The abstract of the report;
Renewable energy development threatens many globally important biodiversity areas
First published: 04 March 2020
Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy is fundamental for halting anthropogenic climate change. However, renewable energy facilities can be land‐use intensive and impact conservation areas, and little attention has been given to whether the aggregated effect of energy transitions poses a substantial threat to global biodiversity. Here, we assess the extent of current and likely future renewable energy infrastructure associated with onshore wind, hydropower and solar photovoltaic generation, within three important conservation areas: protected areas (PAs), Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and Earth’s remaining wilderness. We identified 2,206 fully operational renewable energy facilities within the boundaries of these conservation areas, with another 922 facilities under development. Combined, these facilities span and are degrading 886 PAs, 749 KBAs and 40 distinct wilderness areas. Two trends are particularly concerning. First, while the majority of historical overlap occurs in Western Europe, the renewable electricity facilities under development increasingly overlap with conservation areas in Southeast Asia, a globally important region for biodiversity. Second, this next wave of renewable energy infrastructure represents a ~30% increase in the number of PAs and KBAs impacted and could increase the number of compromised wilderness areas by ~60%. If the world continues to rapidly transition towards renewable energy these areas will face increasing pressure to allow infrastructure expansion. Coordinated planning of renewable energy expansion and biodiversity conservation is essential to avoid conflicts that compromise their respective objectives.Read more (paywalled): https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.15067
It has always seemed a little odd that people who claim to love natural spaces doggedly defend the right of greedy green industrialists to clear fell thousands of acres of their beloved wilderness, to build yet another pointless wind turbine farm or solar installation.
Good to see nature lovers are finally getting fed up with wholesale destruction of important wilderness areas in the name of green progress.